Iowans have spoken…so what did they say
Before getting into the weeds of the Iowa caucuses, there is the obvious big picture. Former President Trump wins BIG. With 51 percent of the vote, he maintains the overwhelming numbers we saw in the polling.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in second – breaking slightly ahead of the nip-and-tuck race seen in the polls between him and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Prior to the Iowa vote, there was speculation that Haley was surging – and a strong second place showing would knock DeSantis out of the race. She did surge, but not enough to claim second place.
Now the pressure will be on Haley to drop out, but she is not completely without a comeback strategy. She is strong in the next Republican primary in New Hampshire. If she finishes a strong second, she has no reason to drop out. And the third primary is in her home state of South Carolina, where she would be primarily in a fight with Trump.
Though the technical second place winner in Iowa, DeSantis did not beat Haley by enough to knock her out. If she tops him in New Hampshire and South Carolina, DeSantis will be under pressure to drop out.
DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Haley split most of the non-Trump vote – with just short of 8 percent going to Vivek Ramaswamy. While DeSantis officially came in second, the spread between DeSantis (21%) and Haley (19%) means that neither of them broke away to such degree that they become a credible challenger to Trump. Without that, they will both be limping to New Hampshire without a mandate from the Republican voters of Iowa unless one or both withdraw. Based on their election night speeches, that is not about to happen.
In looking through the second-place lens, Trump’s win. Second place may not be a competitive position anymore.
If Haley were to drop out, the question is who would she endorse? In some ways, DeSantis is the only rational endorsement, but there is bitter feeling over DeSantis’ nasty personal attacks on her – and vice versa. It seems her options would be to make no endorsements or endorse Trump. If DeSantis were to drop out, he would most likely endorse Trump. After all, Trump lives – and has a strong base of support – in Florida. That plays into any future ambitions DeSantis may have.
As they say, politics is a game in which anything can happen. However, to change Trump’s trajectory toward the GOP presidential nomination, it would take a monumental something. DeSantis and Haley may not be entirely locked out of the nomination, but the door is close to closing.
The Trump vote in Iowa
The first notable outcome is that Trump got more than 50 percent of the vote. That was the highest GOP victory in Iowa caucus history. He did not win Iowa because of a divided field of opponents splitting the anti-Trump vote. In addition, Trump MAY have won every county in Iowa. As of this writing, Trump was beaten by Haley in only one of the states’ 99 counties – and that was by a single vote.
What vexes the Democrat left – specifically the exclusively anti-Trump panelists on MSNBC – is why a state with so many religious evangelical voters can be casting ballots for a man of such questionable moral character. The fact is that the hardcore evangelicals of Iowa voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
Most on the left are at a loss to explains the evangelicals – with the exception of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who claims they see Trump as the man anointed by God to be president. That explanation is not only wrong, but downright stupid. More the product of intellectual desperation than rational analysis.
It was CNN’s Dana Bash who came closest to explain the evangelical vote. She said that DeSantis and Haley can talk about what they WILL DO as President. Trump spent his platform time explaining what he DID DO.
So, what has Trump done to win evangelical support. He kept his promise to appoint Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade — and that is a HUGE deliverable. But there is more. Trump delivered more than $28 billion to farmers. He curtailed illegal border crossing – and the chaos and crime that goes with it.
From the perspective of the religious communities – especially Christians – Trump has been a bulwark against the left’s woke anti-religion policies. Whether he is personally the best example of Christian morality, he is perceived as seen as the man who represents their values. In CNN’s entrance polling, 51 percent of Trump voters said that he “fights for people like me.” Another 36 percent checked the “shares my values” box. That means that an astounding 87 percent of Iowa caucus votes see Trump as like them in terms of issues and values – if not personal character.
It should come as no surprise that voters will lean to a candidate who represents their opinions, beliefs, and values over personal character instead of a candidate with arguably better character, but who governs counter to their opinions, beliefs and values. Duh! You see that thinking when you see how Trump trumps Biden in virtually all the critical issues.
Early in the campaign season, it was argued that as Trump opponents dropped out, a strong challenger would emerge. Actually, Trump kept gaining as others dropped out. It now appears Trump will get portions of the voters in the DeSantis and Haley camps if they drop out. Trump will get a good share of the Ramaswami voters, who has just ended his campaign.
In 2022, polls showed Trump ahead of his competitors, but not my much – 10- to 20-points at most. It is notable that his steady gain over the past two years began with the first indictment. And his numbers have continued to rise with each new legal case.
Interestingly, Trump gave a victory speech of the type one gives after an ultimate victory. He was gracious and complimentary to his Republican opponents. None of the pugnacity. None of the name-calling. Interestingly, FOX covered the speech from beginning to end. CNN cut back to the studio as Trump got into his accomplishments and plans – and his criticism of Biden. MSNBC did not cover Trump’s victory speech at all – but continued their political gang-bang rant against Trump and Republicans. Ironically, MSNBC did cover the DeSantis and Haley speeches. That is not journalism. That is censorship and propaganda. No surprise there.
However, in analyzing the Iowa caucus vote, there is one irrefutable conclusion, Trump improved his chances of being the 2024 Republican presidential candidate. As the saying goes, “It ain’t over until it’s over” – but after Iowa, it looks a bit closer to over.
So, there ‘tis.