Donald Trump muscled past his rivals to capture the first 2024 Republican presidential contest in Iowa on Monday (Jan 15), according to Edison Research projections, once more asserting his dominance over the party as he seeks a third consecutive nomination.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley were in a battle for second place as they sought to emerge as the chief alternative to Trump, who served as president from 2017 to 2021, Edison projected.
Trump appeared likely to win by a record-setting margin, based on early results, which would bolster his argument that he is the only Republican candidate capable of taking on Democratic President Joe Biden, despite facing four criminal cases that could go to trial before the Nov 5 general election.
With 34 per cent of the expected vote tallied, Trump had 51.9 per cent of the vote, while DeSantis was at 20.7 per cent and Haley 19 per cent. The largest margin of victory for an Iowa Republican caucus was 12.8 percentage points for Bob Dole in 1988.
Both DeSantis and Haley were aiming for a strong second-place finish that could demonstrate they might prevent Trump’s march toward the nomination.
DeSantis in particular had wagered his campaign on Iowa, barnstorming all of its 99 counties, and a third-place finish could increase pressure for him to end his bid.
Polls show him far behind Trump and Haley in the more moderate Northeastern state of New Hampshire, where Republicans will choose their nominee eight days from now. Iowans braved life-threatening temperatures to gather at more than 1,600 schools, community centers and other sites for the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus, as the 2024 presidential campaign officially got underway after months of debates, rallies and advertisements.
Caucus-goers appeared broadly supportive of Trump, according to an Edison entrance poll.
Only one-third of caucus-goers said Trump would be unfit for president if convicted of a crime. Nearly two-thirds said they did not believe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, embracing Trump’s falsehoods about voter fraud.
“Trump is very narcissistic, he’s very cocky, but he’s going to get stuff done,” said Rita Stone, 53, a Trump backer, who attended a caucus at a West Des Moines high school. Like many other voters, Stone said her top concern was the US southern border with Mexico, praising Trump’s effort to build a wall when he was president.
Trump has aimed to create an air of inevitability around his campaign, skipping all five of the Republican debates thus far and largely eschewing the county-by-county politicking that most candidates do ahead of the Iowa vote.
“I feel really invigorated and strong for our country,” Trump told Fox News Digital after the network projected that he had won.
In a statement, Alex Pfeiffer, a spokesperson for the main super political action committee supporting Trump, said, “The people of Iowa sent a clear message tonight: Donald Trump will be the next Republican nominee for president. It’s now time to make him the next President of the United States.”