Now, with Iowa out of the way, we can begin the real campaign.

January 16th, 2024 by Tom Lynch

Last night, in an expected result in Iowa, Donald Trump swept to victory in the 2024 Republican caucuses for the right to represent the Party in this year’s presidential election. That’s one down and a whole lot to go.

In a sparse turnout (only 15% of voters slogged through the sub-zero temperatures), the former president, who is facing 91 charges of criminal conduct, won 98 of the 99 counties in the state and 51% of the 117,000 votes cast.

Networks called the result well before the polls closed, which did not sit well with the DeSantis or Haley camps. Actually, it didn’t sit well with the Trump camp either, because when it happened there was no one except a few staffers at his campaign celebration venue as the results splashed onto all three of the giant TVs behind the stage.

Long after the vote had been called, Tony Decoupil, reporting for CBS Evening News, was doing a stand-up at a high school gym turned into a voting precinct while voters were listening to campaign speeches by candidate surrogates prior to voting. Ouch.

Since 2000, only George W. Bush (in that year) and Donald Trump (in 2020, as an incumbent) have won the Iowa Caucuses, gone on to be the Republican nominee, and captured the presidency. In 2004, there were no Republican Iowa Caucuses. They deferred to Bush. In 2008, 2012, and 2016, the Iowa winners were Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ted Cruz. None of them became the nominee, let alone the President. Why? Because Iowa is different. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of Iowa’s Republicans call themselves conservative. PRRI (the Public Religion Research Institute) reports white evangelical and mainline protestants make up 48% of the state’s population, as opposed to 31% nationally. So, Iowa is conservative and deeply religious.

Moreover, except for Iowa, every other state conducts its primary the old fashioned way — voters go to a polling place, enter a voting booth, and cast a secret ballot. Iowans, on the other hand, meet in groups, discuss the candidates, caucus among themselves, and vote by secret ballot. Last night, about 1,600 caucus groups met in designated precinct locations across the state.

In its entrance and exit polling, the Wall Street Journal today reported that 62% of last night’s Republican caucus voters identify as members of the “MAGA Movement,” and 63% believe to this day that Joe Biden was not elected legitimately to the presidency in 2020. When asked to opine on the criminal charges facing Donald Trump, 80% of the respondents agreed with this statement: “They’re political attempts to undermine Trump.”

Next up, a week from today, is New Hampshire, where Pew reports 62% of Republicans identify as conservative, a full 8% fewer than Iowa.

White evangelical protestants make up only 9% of New Hampshire’s population, with white mainline protestants comprising 17%.

New Hampshire is far more representative of Republican voters across the country. Since 2000, every winner of New Hampshire’s Republican primary has gone on to be the Party’s nominee in the general election.

Last night, Trump wannabe Vivek Ramaswamy, after garnering 7.7% of the Iowa vote, dropped out of the race. The biotech entrepreneur, who loaned his campaign $10.5 million (the majority of what he raised), immediately endorsed his hero Trump. That leaves two still standing — barely: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and South Carolina former governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

As they move to New Hampshire, Haley seems to have more momentum and appears to be leaving DeSantis eating dust behind her. Her problem is she’s also eating some dust, a lot of it. Right now, it looks inevitable that come November it’ll be Biden versus Trump, or, as that great American philosopher Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

But in election year politics, anything can happen. You might consider the 1948 presidential election and a certain New York governor named Tom Dewey, and you’ll know what I mean.

Next Tuesday night should be enlightening.