DES MOINES, Iowa — Former President Donald Trump scored a record-setting win in the Iowa caucuses on Monday with his rivals languishing far behind, a victory that affirmed his grip on the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
In what was the lowest-turnout caucus in a quarter-century, participants endured life-threatening cold and dangerous driving conditions to meet in hundreds of schools, churches and community centers across the state. But those who ventured out delivered a roughly 30-point win for Trump that smashed the record for a contested Iowa Republican caucus with a margin of victory exceeding Bob Dole's nearly 13-percentage-point victory in 1988.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finished a distant second, just ahead of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. The results left Trump with a tighter grip on the GOP nomination, though it could take several more months for anyone to formally become the party's standard bearer. The magnitude of Trump's victory, however, posed significant questions for both DeSantis and Haley. Neither candidate appeared poised to exit the race, though they leave Iowa struggling to claim making much progress in trying to become Trump's strongest challenger.
Message of unity
Having repeatedly vowed vengeance against his political opponents in recent months, Trump offered a message of unity in his victory speech.
"We want to come together, whether it's Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative," he said. "We're going to come together. It's going to happen soon."
The GOP contest moves swiftly to New Hampshire, which will hold the first-in-the-nation primary on Jan. 23. A shrinking field will compete there after conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy suspended his campaign after a disappointing fourth place finish and endorsed Trump.
DeSantis first heads to South Carolina on Tuesday, a conservative stronghold where the Feb. 24 contest could prove pivotal. He will head later in the day New Hampshire. “Because of your support, in spite of all of what they threw at us, we got our ticket punched out of Iowa,” DeSantis told supporters.
Haley plans to compete vigorously in New Hampshire, where she hopes to be more successful with the state’s independent voters.
In a preview of a remarkable balancing act Trump may have to manage in the months ahead, he was expected to be in court in New York on Tuesday.
A jury is poised to consider whether he should pay additional damages to a columnist who last year won a $5 million jury award against Trump for sex abuse and defamation. It’s just one of multiple legal challenges facing the former president.