DES MOINES, Iowa – The first ballots for the 2024 presidential campaign will be cast Monday evening. The frozen tundra of Iowawhere the Republicans – along with independents and democrats those who choose to switch parties — will participate in the state caucuses.
End NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll, released Saturday, found former President Donald Trump, who is seeking to win back the office he lost in 2020, to be the frontrunner. His main rivals, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have started to fight for the second place.
Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, also running in Iowa, has worked hard in the state but trailed the top three in the polls and failed to qualify for last week’s GOP debate here; former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson; and the little-known Rev. Ryan Binkley from Texas. The results will clarify the GOP race before next week’s New Hampshire primary.
There are five storylines to watch:
Temperatures below freezing are forecast across the state on Monday arctic conditions for a week and sets the stage for the coldest caucus day on record.
DeSantis and Haley postponed Friday’s events rather than ask people to risk their lives on the treacherous roads. And frigid weekend temperatures likely dampened turnout for Saturday and Sunday’s events. Now they are threatening to reduce voter turnout on caucus night. Forecasters may be warning Iowans to stay indoors Monday unless it’s absolutely necessary. The question then becomes whose supporters believe going to the caucus is worth the risk.
Trump expressed confidence that his supporters would hardly be able to avoid the “walking on glass” and minus 20 wind chill for him. DeSantis expressed confidence in the ground game his super PAC, Never Back Down, has put together to bring out his supporters. While Haley is rising in the polls, he hasn’t spent nearly as much time or money on Iowa as DeSantis and his allies have. Can it be left out in the cold?
Unless the polls are wildly wrong, Trump has Iowa to win — something that eluded him eight years ago when he narrowly lost the election to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. The only real doubt for him is his scoring on DeSantis and Haley.
“We’re trying to set records and we think, frankly, other teams aren’t going to insist on coming out like our team because we have a really great MAGA group,” Trump said in a speech Friday night. phone calls with potential congressmen.
If Trump hits 50%, the idea that Republicans are hungry for an alternative becomes less plausible. He could go to New Hampshire with an air of inevitability. While New Hampshire voters like to assert their independence — or, as Haley put it in recently scanned comments, Iowa’s “correct” results — donors whose support helped keep DeSantis and Haley in the race were almost certainly looking for an exit ramp.
But if Trump fails to win a majority, he could refocus his efforts around the non-Trump faction of the party emerging as his strongest challenger in Iowa.
Battle for second
The real tension on Monday night will likely be who will finish second and by how much. For months now, Haley and DeSantis have been battling it out to see who can finish second in Iowa and enter the upcoming primaries with a little more momentum than the other.
For DeSantis, it has a make-or-break feel. He finished third behind Haley, and he’s headed to two states where he’s already well behind her. Moreover, DeSantis, earlier announced that he will win the elections in the state of IowaIf he finished third behind Haley, who for months focused more on New Hampshire than Iowa, he would have failed miserably.
Progress towards the competition, recent NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll He found Haley with a 4-point lead over DeSantis, who was within margin of error. Both candidates trail Trump by more than 25 points.
Those who joined the group for the first time
Both Trump and Ramaswamy have tried to heavily target members of the group who previously did not vote in Iowa. It makes sense for Trump — the last time there was a competitive Iowa GOP caucus was in 2016, before his presidency and long before he rebuilt the GOP in his image.
If Trump can get into the polls with first-timers, he has a chance to beat his poll numbers and win an even brighter victory — potentially thwarting any momentum from the candidate behind him.
Ramaswamy is focused here for a different reason, thinking his fledgling, fringe campaign could appeal to voters who had previously been absent from the process and may not register in the election that left him in a distant fourth place.
The Vivek factor
No one has campaigned in Iowa like Ramaswamy, the young right-wing provocateur. It has consistently swept the state attracting energetic crowds.
Anecdotally, a number of pro-Trump voters said they supported Ramaswamy after hearing him on the stump. Although Ramaswamy initially presented himself as simply a Trump fan who believed it was time for the younger generation to take charge, more attacks against him in recent weeks.
Ramaswamy recently told NBC News that Trump “injured” and he – Ramaswamy – will be a more capable steward of the MAGA brand. On Saturday, Ramaswamy took a picture With supporters wearing “Save Trump, Vote Vivek” T-shirts.
All of this could cut into Trump’s margin in Iowa — and he and his team clarified they are not happy about it in recent days.
“Vivek started his campaign as a big supporter,” Trump said on Truth Social on Saturday. “Unfortunately, now it’s all about hiding his support in the form of deceptive campaign gimmicks. Very sneaky, but voting for Vivek is voting for ‘the other side’ – don’t be fooled by that.”
Perhaps Ramaswamy is nothing more than a spoiler. Although polls show him trailing Trump, Haley and DeSantis, it would be a big surprise if he finishes in the top three.