Donald Trump wins 2024 Republican presidential race in Iowa, second place up for grabs

Donald Trump has won the first vote in Iowa to be the Republican Party's nominee for President.
Donald Trump has won the first vote in Iowa to be the Republican Party's nominee for President. Photo credit: Reuters

Story by Reuters

Donald Trump muscled past his rivals to capture the first 2024 Republican presidential contest in Iowa on Monday, according to Edison Research projections, once more asserting his dominance over the party as he seeks a third consecutive nomination.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley were in a battle for second place, Edison projected.

With Trump's victory all but a foregone conclusion given his lead in public polls, the runner-up competition was expected to produce most of the evening's intrigue, as DeSantis and Haley seek to emerge as the chief alternative to the former president.

Iowans braved life-threatening temperatures to gather at more than 1,600 schools, community centers and other sites for the state's first-in-the-nation caucus, as the 2024 presidential campaign officially got under way after months of debates, rallies and advertisements.

A commanding victory for Trump in Iowa would bolster his argument that he is the only Republican candidate capable of taking on Democratic President Joe Biden, despite the four criminal cases Trump faces that could potentially turn him into a convicted felon before the Nov. 5 general election.

"Trump is very narcissistic, he's very cocky, but he's going to get stuff done," said Rita Stone, 53, a Trump backer, who attended a caucus at a West Des Moines high school. Like many other voters, Stone said her top concern was the U.S. southern border with Mexico, praising Trump's effort to build a wall when he was president.

Only one-third of caucus-goers said Trump would be unfit for president if convicted of a crime, according to an Edison entrance poll.

Both DeSantis and Haley were aiming for a strong second-place finish that could demonstrate they might prevent Trump's inexorable march toward the nomination.

DeSantis in particular had wagered his campaign on Iowa, barnstorming all of its 99 counties, and a third-place finish could increase pressure to end his bid.

Polls show him far behind Trump and Haley in the more moderate Northeastern state of New Hampshire, where Republicans will choose their nominee eight days from now.

Unlike a regular election, Iowa's caucus requires voters to gather in person in small groups, where they cast secret ballots after speeches from campaign representatives.

The wind chill in parts of the state had been forecast to reach minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 43 degrees Celsius) on Monday, according to the National Weather Service, potentially depressing turnout.

If so, Trump's grip on his most loyal supporters may have given him an edge.

DeSantis and Haley had expressed confidence they would exceed expectations in Iowa, though neither predicted victory.

"If you're willing to brave the cold and turn out for me, I'll be fighting for you for the next eight years, and we're going to turn this country around," DeSantis told a crowd earlier in the day in Sergeant Bluff.

At a diner in Des Moines, Haley predicted that other candidates will be forced to drop out in the weeks to come. "This will be a two-person race with me and Donald Trump," she told supporters.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who has praised Trump, and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has criticized Trump, were also running in Iowa, though neither was expected to garner much support.

Unlike his rivals, Trump did not attend many campaign events, relying instead on others to rally his supporters.

Crossover voters

One potential wild card had been an unknown number of the state's Democratic voters who had registered as Republicans to try to influence the caucus results.

"I just want to be able to look back and say I did what I could to keep Donald Trump from getting elected," said Toni Van Voorhis, 65, one such crossover voter, who planned to back Haley.

Iowa Democrats did not vote on Monday for their presidential nominees because the party has reshuffled its nominating calendar to put states with more diverse populations ahead of Iowa this year. They will cast their ballots by mail, with the results to be released in March.

Iowa has historically played an outsized role in presidential campaigns due to its early spot on the campaign calendar.

But the winner of Iowa's Republican caucuses did not go on to secure the nomination in the last three competitive contests in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

A political battleground that backed Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, the state is now seen as reliably Republican in presidential elections as registered Republicans edge out Democrats.