Ron DeSantis’s campaign accused the media of “election interference” for projecting Donald Trump as the winner of the Iowa caucuses while voting was still taking place on Monday evening.
The Associated Press and other news organisations projected Mr Trump as the clear victor of the first contest in the Republican primary campaign just 30 minutes after voting began, with over 50 per cent of the vote.
At the time of writing, Mr DeSantis was running second with around 20 per cent, while Nikki Haley was close behind in third.
“It is absolutely outrageous that the media would participate in election interference by calling the race before tens of thousands of Iowans even had a chance to vote,” the campaign’s communications director, Andrew Romeo, said in a statement.
“The media is in the tank for Trump and this is the most egregious example yet,” he added.
Iowa conservative Steve Deace, a supporter of Mr DeSantis, echoed the campaign’s criticism on X, singling out Fox News in particular.
“People are telling me phones got Fox News alerts Trump won before they even voted. Just criminal levels of voter suppression. That network is a freaking cancer. With ‘friends’ like Fox, who needs CNN?”
Those words echoed similar statements from Mr Trump in the wake of his election loss in 2020, and ever since, as he has sought to undermine the legitimacy of the electoral process rather than accept defeat. That strategy has been copied by many of his Republican allies.
Mr Trump is currently facing 91 charges across four criminal cases, 17 of which are related to his efforts to overturn the last presidential election.
The Associated Press said in a statement that it declared Mr Trump the winner of the caucuses based on an analysis of early returns and a survey of voters who planned to caucus.
“Both showed Trump with an insurmountable lead,” it said.
It added that “initial results from eight counties showed Trump with far more than half of the total votes counted as of 8:31 pm. ET, with the rest of the field trailing far behind. These counties include rural areas that are demographically and politically similar to a large number of counties that have yet to report.”