Iowa caucuses: DeSantis edges out Haley for distant second behind Trump

Connie Queline

Iowa caucuses: DeSantis edges out Haley for distant second behind Trump

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to snatch a distant second place in Iowa’s caucuses, edging out Nikki Haley in a Republican contest that was dominated by frontrunner Donald Trump.

The BBC’s US partner CBS projects Mr Trump racked up 51% of the vote, with Mr DeSantis on 21% and Ms Haley on 19%.

Mr DeSantis had campaigned relentlessly in the state, and a senior campaign official said he had “earned his ticket out of Iowa”.

But with New Hampshire voting next week, it was Ms Haley – with an outside chance of beating Mr Trump in the state – who claimed she had the momentum.

Iowa was the first of the state-by-state contests where Republican voters will pick their White House candidate.

The party’s eventual nominee will challenge the Democrat pick, probably President Joe Biden, in November’s election.

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In a victory party at the state capital Des Moines, Mr Trump turned his fire squarely on Mr Biden.

“So I don’t want to be overly rough on the president,” he said. “But I have to say that he is the worst president that we’ve had in the history of our country.”

Mr Trump, the runaway frontrunner nationally in the Republican race, had been the overwhelming favourite to win Iowa.

In the wake of his landslide win – the former president appears to have won 98 of 99 counties in the Iowa vote – a pro-Trump political action committee called on his Republican challengers to pull out and avoid a protracted battle to save resources for the general election.

But both Mr DeSantis and Ms Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and US ambassador to the UN under President Trump, claimed on Monday night that the political wind was in their sails.

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“They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us,” Mr DeSantis said. “The media was against us. They were writing our obituary months ago.

“In spite of all of that… we’ve got our ticket punched out of Iowa.”

Mr DeSantis spent most of his time and resources in Iowa, campaigning in all 99 counties and courting the rural state’s influential bloc of evangelical voters.

But the conservative Florida governor could face tougher terrain in the more moderate state of New Hampshire, which holds its primary on 23 January.

In her caucus night party Ms Haley argued that she was the only viable alternative to Mr Trump.

“I can safely say tonight Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race,” she said.

“Our campaign is the last best hope of stopping the Trump-Biden nightmare,” added Ms Haley, who is aiming to be the first female US president.

But her third-place finish seemed a disappointment for a candidate who was said to be surging ahead of the caucuses.

Her appeal with independents and moderate Republicans did little for her among Iowa’s conservative electorate. She even failed to win in the Des Moines suburbs, where she had been expected to dominate.

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Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy announced he was suspending his presidential campaign after he seemed on course for a distant fourth-place finish. He endorsed Mr Trump.

In a post on X, Mr Biden noted that he seemed to be heading for a rematch with Mr Trump.

“But here’s the thing: this election was always going to be you and me vs extreme Maga Republicans,” the Democratic president wrote. “It was true yesterday and it’ll be true tomorrow.”

Registered Republicans braved sub-zero temperatures to gather on Monday evening across Iowa to cast ballots at churches, schools, gyms and community centres.

At a high school in Davenport, in the eastern part of the state, Trump supporter Brian Romer gave an impassioned speech to his fellow Republicans in favour of the former president.

“The things that happen in this country are things that happen in communist countries,” he said, referring to Mr Trump’s criminal indictments. “We don’t live in a free country anymore.”

Nikki Haley at a caucus night party in West Des Moines, Iowa, on 15 January 2024

Reuters

According to the entrance poll data, Mr Trump won strong support from white evangelicals and very conservative voters.

He also won more broadly among men, women, older voters and younger voters, improving on his 2016 performance with all of these groups.

Most Iowa caucus-goers largely dismissed his ongoing legal woes, saying he would still be fit for the presidency even if he were convicted of a crime.

The issue of immigration helped boost Mr Trump: he overwhelmingly won those who picked this as their top issue.

Most Republican voters in Iowa said they favoured a nationwide ban on all or most abortions, and most of those voters also went for Mr Trump.

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Kyle Brock rallied support for Mr DeSantis at Grant Ragan Elementary School in Waukee, a Des Moines suburb, arguing it was time for Republicans to move on from Mr Trump.

“I like his [the Florida governor’s] integrity, and the way he presents himself and – really – what he got done in Florida,” he said.

Hallie Still-Caris, who attended a caucus at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, said Ms Haley had the best chance to win in November.

“I look at the other Republican candidates and President Biden,” she said, “and I think she’s electable. That’s what we need – less drama and less chaos.”

Mr Trump has consolidated his lead among Republicans in national opinion polls even as he faces four separate criminal trials.

He also faces a judgement as soon as this month in a civil fraud trial that threatens his New York property empire. On Tuesday he is expected to attend another trial that will work out how much he should pay in defamation damages to E Jean Carroll, a woman he was found liable of sexually abusing.

After New Hampshire next week, voters in Nevada and South Carolina will have their say in the Republican race in February.

Local Republican officials count votes in Davenport, Iowa

More than a dozen states vote in a single day in early March on so-called Super Tuesday. The eventual Republican White House candidate will be confirmed at the party convention in July.

Iowa’s early spot on the campaign calendar presents contenders with a prized political launchpad.

However, the Hawkeye State is not always a reliable bellwether.

The Republican winner of Iowa’s caucuses has not gone on to win the White House nomination in the last three competitive races: 2008, 2012 and 2016.

Republican primary calendar

Related Topics

  • Iowa
  • Iowa caucuses
  • US election 2024
  • US politics
  • United States

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