Donald Trump is the heavy favorite to overtake his rivals and claim an early victory in the race for the Republican presidential nomination as Iowans brave the frigid temperatures on Monday to cast the first votes of the 2024 campaign.
The former president’s dominant position has turned the first Iowa contest into a race for second placesince both the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, and the former ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley aspire to a clear second place to establish themselves as the main alternative to Trump.
A dominant victory for Trump in Iowa would bolster his argument that he is the only Republican candidate capable of taking on Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election.. It would also pose a problem for his opponents, especially DeSantis, who has staked the viability of his campaign on Monday’s Iowa caucuses by pouring resources into the Midwestern state and canvassing its 99 counties.
A poll released Saturday by an influential Iowa pollster showed DeSantis falling behind the former U.N. ambassador.earning 16% of the state’s Republican votes to Haley’s 20%, with Trump far ahead with 48%.
A strong second-place finish by Haley or DeSantis would keep alive the idea that Trump’s march to the nomination is not a foregone conclusion.
For DeSantis, a third-place finish could be fatal to his prospects as the campaign shifts to the more moderate state of New Hampshire.where Republicans will choose their candidate eight days after Iowa. Polls there show Haley cutting Trump’s lead, while the Florida governor remains far behind.
Both DeSantis and Haley on Monday expressed confidence in exceeding expectations, although they were careful not to predict victory.
“I have a history of doing well without being the favorite … we’re going to do well,” DeSantis told Fox News on Sunday.
“The only numbers that matter are the ones where we’re going up and everyone else is going down,” Haley told the network. “And that shows we’re doing the right thing.”
The threatening cold that covers the Midwest, which already forced campaigns to cancel several events over the weekend, could reduce participation on Monday. Unlike a normal election, the Iowa caucuses require voters to gather in person on Monday night in small groups at churches, schools and community centers, where they cast their secret ballots following speeches by campaign officials.
In Sunday’s election campaign, The candidates urged their supporters to attend the caucuses despite the cold conditions.
“Defy the climate and go out and save America,” Trump said at a rally in Indianola.
The National Weather Service predicted wind chill temperatures could reach -45 degrees Fahrenheit (-43 degrees Celsius) in some parts of the state.
Trump’s control over his most loyal supporters could give him an advantage if frigid conditions convince some voters to stay home. The Iowa poll released Saturday showed Trump had many more supporters who were “extremely” or “very” excited about going to the caucuses on Monday.
“Trump creates his own turnout,” said Brad Boustead, a Republican Party official in Urbandale, Iowa, who attended Trump’s rally. “Trump’s people are not going to be afraid of the weather.”
Iowa has historically played an exaggerated role in presidential campaigns due to its primacy on the campaign calendar.. Candidates often spend months fanning out across the state and introducing themselves to voters, and many campaigns have ended after a poor showing.
However, In 2008, 2012 and 2016 – the last three competitive races – the winner of the Iowa Republican caucuses failed to win the nominationin part because Iowa’s large evangelical population makes the state more socially conservative than the country as a whole.
Trump has maintained an impressive lead in national polls despite facing four separate indictments, including state and federal prosecutions focused on his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden, who will face the Republican candidate in the November general election.
Trump has continued to falsely claim that Biden’s victory was the result of voter fraud.