The life-threatening, sub-zero temperatures mean most are wearing multiple layers and will be bundling up to vote in the crucial Republican caucus on Monday.
For Rocky, it will mean putting many clothes on.
The 69-year-old retiree from Davenport is a practicing nudist who fully intends to participate in his first caucus to support Donald Trump. He will brave the snow left by blizzards over the weekend to join the democratic tradition that dates back to 1972.
It’s personal for Rocky. He believes Trump is a ‘survivor’, something he knows all too well having suffered a severe stroke, thirteen stints and open-heart surgery.
James Johnson, DailyMail.com pollster and co-founder of J.L. Partners, spoke to Rocky at his home last week with his wife of 40 years beside him.
Below, he describes his confrontation with one of the many eccentric characters who make the Iowa caucuses a political event like no other.
Johnson also shares his views on the significant polls heading into the first official contest of the Republican primary.
On Wednesday afternoon, I did briefly question what I do for a living.
For the last week, I have been struggling through Iowa blizzards and jack-knifed trucks to interview Republican voters ahead of the first caucus of 2024.
I had ended up in Davenport, a city on the eastern edge of the state. I had just pulled up to a bungalow in the suburbs, draped with American flags.
Two minutes later I was sat opposite a naked man.
Rocky, a 69-year-old retiree from Davenport, is a practicing nudist who fully intends to participate in his first Iowa caucus to support Donald Trump
Sans all clothes bar some blue slippers, perched on his sofa on a small towel, this is Rocky, a 69-year-old retiree and a fully-fledged nudist.
It stems from his childhood, growing up in the woods in California. After years of work as a caretaker, he has been stripped down since retiring – and he’s never felt more free.
He has had a few complaints, and the police were called once.
His wife of forty years doesn’t much like it. But after suffering a serious stroke, thirteen stints and open-heart surgery, life is too short for Rocky to cover up.
We settle in.
‘Can I audio record this, Rocky?’, I ask.
I needn’t have worried: ‘You can video it if you like’.
After being briefly taken aback when he sat back and put his left leg up on a footstool (I appear to have scribbled ‘FULLY NAKED’ in my notes as the reality hit me) we launch into conversation about the race to be the 2024 Republican nominee.
Despite his unusual dressing habits, Rocky is a middle-of-the-road Republican.
He has voted for the party since 1972.
For Rocky it’s personal. He believes Trump is a ‘survivor’, something he knows all too well, having suffered a severe stroke, thirteen stints and open-heart surgery
He does not think the 2020 election was stolen. Nor does he think the events on January 6 were legal or permissible.
But on Monday he will head out to caucus for the first time in his life. And he will support Donald Trump.
The reason is the same as it is for many Republicans who will brave the snow and give the former president the most votes on Monday night.
Despite his faults, Trump is strong, can get things done, and has a proven record.
Rocky leans forward. His voice – clear, confident and to the point – is as unwavering as his dress sense. ‘I don’t like his style, but I do like what he’s accomplished.’
Trump left his first term with ‘lower prices’, a ‘good economy’, and a ‘tough’ approach to foreign affairs.
Rocky is a middle-of-the road Republican. He does not think the 2020 election was stolen. Nor does he think the events on January 6 were legal or permissible
Rocky and his wife are now paying 50 percent more for staple goods; Trump will fix it.
Rocky despairs at the situation on the southern border where hundreds of thousands cross illegally every month: Trump will finish the wall.
Rocky worries that we will need to ‘prepare for war’ under a second Biden term as aggressors like Russia and North Korea sniff out our weakness: Trump has the ‘strong hand’ to face them down.
Why is he so confident Trump will do so? ‘Trump follows through. Unlike other politicians, he doesn’t bulls***. He would go through on his word’. He isn’t ‘in it for the money. He just wants to serve’.
Polls show it is that sense of Trump’s strength that is so vital to his support.
The plain-speaking, the saying it how it is, the no messing. Many Iowans I spoke to do not just see a desirable politician but an archetype for how Americans in the twenty-first century should be.
Trump embodies an old-school frankness they have seen expunged from society and their politics, replaced by woke softness and political spin.
Those feelings have only been bolstered by what people see as political persecution through numerous criminal indictments.
That makes it personal for Rocky. He has also been pursued in the past, sacked three times because – he says – people were threatened by his ambition in the workplace.
Rocky, with his wife of 40 years, despairs at the situation on the southern border where hundreds of thousands cross illegally every month. But he believes Trump will finish the wall
‘You don’t go after someone if you’re not afraid of them’. The same logic applies to Trump: court case after court case simply shows that if Trump got into power, he would face down his political opponents like no one has ever done before.
Rocky speaks more quietly: ‘I survived. Trump’s going to survive.’
Ron DeSantis, with a strong Iowa ground game, may well finish second in the state but will find it hard to catch Trump.
His approval ratings in Iowa are strong, almost as high as Trump’s on around +40 net positivity. But that is not translating into votes.
If Trump wasn’t in the race, Rocky thinks DeSantis would win in a landslide.
He started off liking him. But he’s been disappointed by how easily DeSantis has ‘allowed people to lead him’.
He has been to a DeSantis event (he tried to ask the Florida Governor for his views on social nudity but couldn’t get to him in time). Rocky felt he was a classic politician, eager to please the attendees.
Vivek Ramaswamy’s presence in the race has entrenched this. His impact has been slight: he is on track to poll less than 10 percent.
But the one legacy of his straight-talking campaign, anchored by the slogan of ‘TRUTH’, has been to expose further the relatively polished operation of Ron DeSantis. That polish is not an asset in the 2020s, but a weakness.
What about the other candidates? Rocky fidgets (I won’t tell you with what). He thinks Chris Christie, who dropped out that day, is a ‘mobster’. Nikki Haley is a ‘blowhard’ who ‘doesn’t have the experience’.
The final Selzer Iowa poll shows there are many other Rockies in Iowa.
Though Haley takes 20 percent of the vote in the survey, half of her support comes from Democrats and Independents.
Her approval rating overall is a measly +2. With those numbers I would be surprised if she comes second.
She may perform well in New Hampshire, where independents vote in large numbers, but is unlikely to have the support in later states to take on Trump.
For all his current support in Iowa, twelve months ago Trump was beatable. Doubts about his temperament were widespread and DeSantis was nipping at his heels in the polls.
But the indictments changed everything as voters rallied around their man. His support jumped overnight, and it has only gone up since.
Rocky might be a nudist but when it comes to politics he speaks for many other Iowans.
On Monday night, he will put on some clothes and traipse through Arctic temperatures to a community center. And there, alongside those many, he will crown Donald Trump.