Donald Trump dominates Iowa caucuses as DeSantis survives Haley challenge

Des Moines, Iowa - Donald Trump romped to a lightning-quick victory Monday in Iowa's caucuses – the first vote in the 2024 presidential race – cementing his status as the presumptive Republican standard-bearer to challenge President Joe Biden in November's election.

Donald Trump won the Republican Party's Iowa caucuses with an 32-point lead over second-placed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Donald Trump won the Republican Party's Iowa caucuses with an 32-point lead over second-placed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.  © REUTERS

Trump has led polling for more than a year, but the contest was seen as the clearest insight yet into whether he can convert his advantage into a stunning White House return.

Major networks took just 30 minutes to project the winner, with Trump opening up an unprecedented 32-point lead over second-placed Ron DeSantis over the following hour or so.

The Florida governor just shaded second place in front of former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, according to Associated Press predictions. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy – who briefly threatened to join the ranks of the also-rans – dropped out of the race and endorsed Trump.

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The Iowa victory demonstrated Trump success in turning his multiple prosecutions into a rallying cry that has galvanized his followers as he takes his momentum into New Hampshire next Tuesday.

Bundled-up residents shuffled into more than 1,600 voting locations, braving sub-zero temperatures in a winter storm that forced candidates to cancel events at the last minute.

Aides of all the hopefuls had fretted over turnout, with some justification, as the number of caucus-goers was estimated shortly after the contest opened to be around 130,000 – substantially down on the 187,000 who turned out in 2016.

DeSantis pips Haley to second place

DeSantis shaded second place in front of former UN ambassador Nikki Haley.
DeSantis shaded second place in front of former UN ambassador Nikki Haley.  © REUTERS

The margin of Trump victory was always the main question of the night, with analysts arguing that a gap above 30 points, or a voting share of more than 50 percent, would be far above par.

The Trump machine is better organized than when he lost Iowa in 2016, with boots on the ground across the early nominating states.

He has been staging rallies, driving home with uncharacteristic discipline his message that immigration and border security are America's biggest issues.

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The RealClearPolitics polling average shows Trump leading the Republican field nationally with 61.4% support. Haley and DeSantis trail at 12% and 10.7%, respectively.

The Iowa result is seen as critical for DeSantis, who shifted significant resources to the state and spent months wooing voters in all 99 counties.

"I can tell you because of your support, in spite of all of that, that they threw at us – everyone against us – we've got our ticket punched out of Iowa," he told supporters.

Trump reels off greatest hits in victory speech

Despite starting off his victory speech by announcing that "it is time for our country to come together," Trump quickly pivoted to promising "a deportation level that we haven't seen in this country in a long time."

He then boasted about caucus polling that shows a clear majority of Iowa Republicans believe the lie that Biden's 2020 election win was fraudulent.

The Iowa caucus results were also acknowledged by the current president, who posted on X: "Looks like Donald Trump just won Iowa. He's the clear front runner on the other side at this point."

Cover photo: REUTERS

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