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National News

Trump cruises to historic Iowa caucus victory; DeSantis edges past Haley

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Robin Opsahl and Ashley Murray, Iowa Capital Dispatch
January 15, 2024

Former President Donald Trump is projected to win the Iowa Caucuses Monday night, according to The Associated Press, which calls unofficial results for American elections.

AP called the caucuses for Trump just after 7:30 p.m. Central, just 30 minutes into the Iowa precinct meetings. With more than 95% of the vote reported, Trump was leading in 98 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Trump took the stage at his watch party at the Iowa Event Center in Des Moines surrounded by supporters and family Monday night, celebrating his victory in the Iowa Republican caucuses.

“Iowa, we love you,” Trump said as the crowd cheered. “You are beautiful. You just go out and buy larger tractors and more land, don’t worry about it.”

The Republican front-runner was leading with 51.1% of the vote, nearly 30 percentage points ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 21.2%. The margin of victory broke the record of 12 points set by Bob Dole in 1988.

DeSantis, Haley vow to keep competing

“We got our ticket punched out of Iowa,” DeSantis said just before 10:30 p.m., saying he would go on to compete in upcoming primaries. DeSantis had predicted early in the campaign that he would win the caucuses.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who was narrowly leading Trump in Johnson County, was in third place with 19.1%.

Haley said she was going on to New Hampshire later Monday night and continued to predict she would be the last challenger to Trump left standing.

“The pundits will analyze the results from every angle. We get that. But when you look at how we’re doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina and beyond, I can safely say tonight I will make this Republican primary a two person race,” Haley said.

Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who came in a distant fourth place, suspended his campaign Monday and endorsed Trump. “… There is no path for me to be the next president, absent things that we don’t want to see happen in this country,” Ramaswamy said.

All other candidates on the ballot — Texas businessman Ryan Binkley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, each had less than 1% of the vote.

Trump entered the first-in-the-nation nominating contest with a historic lead in the most recent Iowa Poll by The Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom — leading at 48%, with Haley at 20% and DeSantis trailing at 16%.

The DeSantis  campaign criticized the projection.

“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 media is in the tank for Trump and this is the most egregious example yet,” said Communications Director Andrew Romeo.

Trump congratulates rivals

Most of the candidates held Iowa watch parties with supporters and media to track results before heading to New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first and second primaries in the GOP nominating process, to continue their campaigns.

The former president, who has spent much of his time on the campaign trail attacking his opponents for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, gave congratulations to DeSantis and Haley.

“I want to congratulate Ron and Nikki for having a good time together, we’re all having a good time together,” he said. “And I think they both actually did very well. I really do, I think they both did very well. We don’t even know what the outcome of second place is.”

He also congratulated Ramaswamy for getting roughly 8% in the Iowa caucuses.

Turnout tops 110,000 despite sub-zero temperatures

Turnout was brisk at precincts across the state despite arctic temperatures and recent winter storms.

According to early results released by the state Republican Party, more than 110,000 Iowans participated in the 2024 GOP caucuses. Though some predicted that high energy going into the nominating cycle could push the 2024 caucuses past the 2016 record of nearly 187,000 caucusgoers, 2024 participation levels fell somewhat short.

That lower participation rate may have been driven by winter weather – snow was falling in some areas of Iowa, and wind chill temperatures kept much of the state in dangerous travel conditions.

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann thanked the Iowans who braved record-low temperatures following a blizzard to come to the Iowa caucuses to “deliberate with members of their community about the future of our country.”

“I could not be prouder to be an Iowan than I am tonight,” Kaufmann said in a statement. “… Iowans coming out en masse demonstrates our people’s resilience and determination, as well as their confidence in the most transparent democratic process in the country.”

Candidates rally voters in final hours before caucuses

In the final hours before the state contest, candidates made their final push to bring Iowans out to caucus. Haley held events in Des Moines, Pella and Newton Monday, while DeSantis traveled to Sergeant Bluff, Council Bluffs, and Cedar Rapids to give his final rallying call.

DeSantis repeated his calls for his supporters to go out despite the cold weather in a Sergeant Bluff stop Monday afternoon. He promised that if Iowans will dedicate a few hours to supporting him on caucus night, he will be “fighting for you for the next eight years.”

He also said he believes his supporters are passionate enough about his campaign to show up. The Florida governor thanked volunteers and supporters who travelled to Iowa to phone backers and go door-to-door in the final days before the caucuses, saying it showed the energy behind his campaign.

“The former president, how many people that served that his administration are even willing to publicly support him — much less come in negative temperatures to go door to door?” DeSantis said. “Not a lot. Whereas with us, this is, this is what they want to do.”

In a tele-town hall less than two hours before the caucuses start, Haley answered questions from voters on issues from Israel to congressional term limits. The former United Nations ambassador said that as president, she would work to reduce divisiveness in American politics and change the “tone in our country” to bring Americans together.

She thanked Iowans for their kindness during her time on the campaign trail and urged them to go to the caucuses, bringing friends, family and voter ID.

“Make sure you spread the word, because we are going to do something that’s going to really make you proud,” Haley said. “And I will focus every day on proving that you made the right decision.”

Though Trump did not have public events scheduled before the caucuses Monday, he attacked his rival candidates in a post on TruthSocial. The former president called Haley a “Globalist RINO” who would not be supported by “MAGA” Republicans in the general election, adding that “Ron DeSanctimonious, at least, is MAGA-Lite” and that votes for Ramaswamy are “wasted.”

“Remember, I think MAGA is almost ALL of the Republican Party,” Trump wrote. “… It’s not going to happen for her, or DeSanctimonious!”

The Republican Party of Iowa released results on its website Monday night. The party had designated volunteers to record and report results at each precinct site using a web-based application, which will be posted publicly following verification by state GOP staff.

This story was originally published by Iowa Capital Dispatch, which is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.