Former U.S. President Donald Trump emerged victorious with a wide lead in Monday’s Republican caucuses in Iowa. This was the first primary of the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
What does Trump’s victory in Iowa mean? Who in the Republican field can challenge Trump? What to watch in the upcoming primaries?
“CRUCIAL EARLY VICTORY”
The Midwest state of Iowa was shrouded in severe cold, with the capital city Des Moines experiencing a temperature as low as minus 18 degrees Celsius on Monday. U.S. media described the primary as the “coldest” in the state’s history. According to the Iowa Republican Party’s data, approximately 110,000 people participated in the caucuses and cast their votes for their preferred presidential candidates within the party. Attendance at this caucus was relatively low compared to previous ones due to icy and snowy weather. Despite facing legal issues and controversies over candidacy eligibility, Trump maintained a substantial lead over other Republican contenders in national and Iowa pre-election polls. Shortly after the Iowa caucuses began, major U.S. media outlets, including the Associated Press, CBS News, and Fox News, declared Trump’s victory.
The Associated Press declared Trump the winner of the Iowa caucuses based on an analysis of early returns as well as results of a survey of voters on Monday night. Both showed Trump with an “insurmountable lead.” Fox News reported that Trump easily secured victory in Iowa at “lightning speed,” giving him “a crucial early victory” in his bid to return to the White House. The left-leaning magazine Mother Jones sarcastically referred to Trump in its headline as the “Florida man with 91 criminal charges winning Iowa Caucus.” Trump, who is registered to run for U.S. president in Florida, is currently facing 91 criminal charges in four separate cases. CBS News said Trump’s win proves his grip on the party even as he faces numerous felony charges.”The good news for Trump is that he won by a wide margin, and that (former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki) Haley wasn’t able to get the second-place finish she’d hoped for. The bad news for Trump is that turnout was way down from the last competitive GOP caucus in Iowa,” Christopher Galdieri, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua. Following his victory, Trump delivered a speech in Des Moines, expressing gratitude to Iowa voters and unusually calling for bipartisan unity in the United States. He even praised his fellow Republican competitors. Jonathan Swan, a reporter with The New York Times, commented on social media satirically that considering the current polarization in U.S. politics and Trump’s role in demonizing the American left, his words were “absurd.”
WHO CAN CHALLENGE TRUMP?
Trump secured over 50 percent of votes in the Iowa Republican caucuses. With his victory assured, attention quickly turned to who would come in second.According to Iowa Republican Party’s data, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis secured approximately 21 percent, trailing Trump by around 30 percentage points and ranking second. Haley lagged behind DeSantis by about 2 percentage points, placing third. Indian-American entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was fourth and has announced his withdrawal from the race and endorsed Trump. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who was willing to directly take on Trump, dropped his GOP presidential bid after finishing sixth in Iowa’s caucuses. DeSantis, in his speech, criticized mainstream U.S. media for quickly declaring Trump the winner. “The media is in the tank for Trump and this is the most egregious example yet,” DeSantis campaign spokesperson Andrew Romeo said in a statement.
Haley said that she would head to New Hampshire to prepare for the next Republican primary. She also questioned the ages of both Trump and current Democratic President Joe Biden, urging voters to support a new generation of conservative leaders. Haley, despite finishing in third place in Iowa Monday night, said Tuesday that she would only step foot on the debate stage again if Trump or Biden is there. In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, DeSantis said that Haley “is afraid to debate because she doesn’t want to answer the tough questions” and accused her of running to be Trump’s vice president. While Iowa caucuses are closely watched as the first measure of how the Republican presidential field is shaping up in the primary season, previous experiences show that winning Iowa does not guarantee a smooth path to the nomination or White House victory. In 2016, Trump finished second in the Iowa Republican caucuses.
WHAT TO WATCH NEXT?
The second Republican primary will take place in New Hampshire next week on Jan. 23.In New Hampshire, Trump’s polling advantage is relatively smaller. According to the latest data from the nonpartisan “OpenSecrets” website, Trump’s average party support in the state is 43.5 percent, with Haley ranking second at 29.3 percent and DeSantis third at 11.3 percent. Compared to the highly conservative Iowa, New Hampshire voters are considered more moderate. Analysts suggest that the New Hampshire primary might be the best opportunity for Trump’s intra-party opponents to slow his momentum. For his part, Trump is going to hope for a knockout blow in New Hampshire to keep Haley from developing any momentum, as this is her best early state, thanks to its low numbers of conservative evangelicals and high numbers of voters with college degrees and advanced degrees, Galdieri said.”If she can’t close the deal here, it’s tough to see where else she can do so,” said Galdieri.
Haley and her campaign team have invested significant efforts and resources in New Hampshire, and whether she can pose a greater challenge to Trump in the state remains to be seen. While Trump’s campaign has started smoothly, eligibility controversies continue to plague him. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in February regarding an appeal on Trump’s candidacy eligibility, and its ruling could have a significant impact on this year’s election. Analysts believe that despite Trump’s unquestionable position and influence within the Republican Party, his path to securing the nomination may not be smooth considering the legal and political disputes he is involved in. Greg Cusack, a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives, told Xinhua that Trump is bolstered by GOP support despite criminal charges he faces. “In polls leading up to last night, a remarkably large segment of Republican voters said that there was nothing that could deter them from voting for Trump in the general election, not even any convictions in trials,” said Cusack.
Trump had a very big victory in Iowa, so he remains the odds-on favorite for the GOP nomination, Brookings Institution senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua. He needs to follow this with strong showings in New Hampshire and South Carolina. “If he does well in those places, the nomination is his.” On the Democratic side, Biden is running for re-election. With little chance of internal challengers replacing Biden, the Democratic primary is essentially a formality, with the first primary scheduled for Feb. 3 in South Carolina.”When we reach that point, it is a Biden versus Trump rematch and the country should be prepared for a nasty campaign,” West said.