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Iowa Caucuses fall to Trump

Trump won the Iowa Caucuses, with a clear majority, and the largest margin of victory ever. The Republican nomination race is over.

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President Donald J. Trump handily won last night’s Iowa Caucuses, a feat he did not achieve in 2016. In fact, Trump took the Caucuses with a majority vote, which no one came close to accomplishing in 2016. For that reason alone, Trump’s victory in Iowa will carry a rare significance in Iowa Caucuses history.

How the Iowa Caucuses run

Caucuses, by definition, are closed meetings. Only Party members may attend, and only Party members run them. The next more open type of voting meeting is an unassembled caucus, in which voters report in, cast their ballots, and leave. But unlike a conventional primary, even the Officers of Election (OOEs, “poll workers”) are Party faithful. Some people call this kind of caucus a “firehouse primary.”

The Iowa Caucuses are not “firehouse primaries.” Party members report in person to assigned locations, and caucus chairs call meetings to order, perhaps call for readings and approval of minutes from the last caucus (or regular Party meeting), entertain motions for old and new business, and then call for candidates, or more likely their representatives, to “pitch” to the members present. Then the members take votes, and the chair makes a list of all candidates, and the number of votes for each. The chair then calls that list up the chain.

Eventually the lists come to the State Republican Party, which awards delegates in proportion to votes cast for each candidate. (Source: National Public Radio.)

Iowa has generally not been predictive of the eventual nominee. That was especially true in 2016. Iowa receives forty delegates to the Republican National Convention, and in 2016 the Party split them almost evenly. (See Reuters.) Winning such a bare plurality has only even chances of correlating with eventual nomination. But lopsided victories – actual majorities instead of pluralities – are far more predictive.

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Factors influencing last night’s Iowa Caucuses

Advertising spends in Des Moines (Iowa’s largest city), Cedar Rapids, and Sioux City are always the highest. So are campaign functions and rallies. Trump found time from his court schedule to hold at least one rally – which more people attended than anyone else’s campaign functions. Advance polling showed Trump consistently winning pluralities but not always winning majorities. Trump won the Real Clear Politics Average with 52.5 percent of the vote, with majorities in every poll except one: the NBC News/Des Moines Register poll, in which he won 48 percent.

By far the biggest effect on the Iowa Caucuses was the weather. Bitter cold, snow, and especially ice made travel hazardous, so that only the most fanatically devoted Party members attended. (In addition, of course, to Party officers, who always find a way.) And the most fanatically devoted Caucus attendees were Trump supporters.

Results

CNN projected Trump the eventual winner when the night was only thirty minutes old.

The Associated Press has final results. With 99 percent of Caucus votes reported, the Associated Press reports:

CandidateVotesPercent share
Donald Trump56,25051.0
Ron DeSantis23,42021.2
Nikki Haley21,08519.1
Vivek Ramaswamy8,4497.7
Ryan Binkley7740.7
Asa Hutchinson1910.2
All others840.08
Chris Christie350.03
Total110,288100.01

The excess above 99 percent is likely due to rounding error.

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These results closely mirror the RCP Average, though they show Trump doing only slightly less well than predicted.

The Associated Press also broke the votes down demographically – and those results showed that Trump has broad appeal. Among men and women both, Trump won at least half, with no significant gender gap. He won clear majorities in the 18-29 and 45-64 age brackets – and that should surprise many doubters. Only among white college graduates did DeSantis and Haley tie Trump. Of course Trump won a clear majority of conservatives – and a respectable 45 percent of moderates. Suburban voters split evenly – but city and rural folk went decisively for Trump. In all other demographic areas he won.

On the abortion issue, Trump won 55 percent of those who want to see abortion banned after six weeks – and 43 percent of those who do;n’t.

The New York Times has a precinct map showing Trump strong almost all over Iowa, and his rivals showing strength only in cities (not in Sioux City).

Aftermath

CNN had a delegate count as of 1:52 a.m. EST. They projected the State Republicans would award twenty delegates to Trump, eight to DeSantis, seven to Nikki Haley, and three to Vivek Ramaswamy, with two unassigned.

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More remarkably, CNN asked Republicans going to their caucuses whether they felt Joe Biden won the Election of 2020 legitimately. Sixty-eight percent said no, more than Trump’s eventual vote portion. Furthermore, seventy-eight percent feel the charges against Trump are political attacks.

Roger Stone noted that Trump set a new record for margin of victory:

Trump made a brief victory speech at about 9:00 p.m. CST.

At 9:15 p.m. CST, he issued this brief statement on Truth Social:

Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out of the race last night, at 10:15 p.m. CST, and endorsed Trump. Benny Johnson had video of his announcement:

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Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson (RINO-Ark.) dropped out this morning – but evidently he wasn’t happy to do it.

Today, I am suspending my campaign for President and driving back to Arkansas. My message of being a principled Republican with experience and telling the truth about the current front runner did not sell in Iowa. Asa Hutchinson

Trump made another, longer victory speech shortly before 10:00 p.m. CST:

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Amb. And former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) refuse to leave the race. Gov. Haley in fact said it was a “two-person race,” though she finished third behind Trump and DeSantis.

Reaction to this was equal parts scathing rebuke and rolling-on-the-floor laughter:

To the knacker – go!

At noon today, Wayne Allen Root compared Trump to Secretariat, winner of the 1973 Triple Crown of Racing. (Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes, last leg in the Crown, in two minutes and twenty-four seconds – a record that stands to this day – and beat the second-place finisher by thirty-one lengths, or one-sixteenth of a mile.) As for DeSantis and Haley, Root said they were “headed for the glue factory.”

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Root might have good reason to conclude that. CNN ran a follow-up survey of supporters of Nikki Haley who once said they’d sooner vote for Biden than Trump. That’s no longer true. Whether they think Trump can win or not, Biden has soured them thoroughly with his policies.

To be sure, not all the reaction to Trump’s win in the Iowa Caucuses was positive. At 11:20 p.m. EST, President Biden, on his personal X account, said this:

The reaction of an MSNBC panel, at 9:30 p.m. EST after CNN had called the race, was worse. Perennial scold Rachel Maddow spoke of a coming of “authoritarian” or even “fascist” government. Yet her statement about the direction of the Republican Party lapsed into inconsistency toward the end.

But there is an authoritarian movement inside republican politics that isn’t being bamboozled by Trump. They are pushing Trump to get more and more extreme.

What?

Then we saw Joy Reid.

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These are white Christians. This is a state that is overrepresented by white Christians that are going to participate tonight. This is a hyper-evangelical, white state.

Reid’s problem: Trump won more non-whites than whites – and more women than men!. So Trump can’t be a white man’s candidate.

Analysis

This could be the most predictive Iowa Caucuses ever held for an open field. This beats Trump’s 97 percent showing in 2020, because he was the only serious candidate in the running. Commentators everywhere are declaring the race over and advising DeSantis and Haley to quit, as Ramaswamy and Hutchinson did.

Vivek Ramaswamy has successfully redeemed himself after a silly stunt he pulled over the weekend. Several members of his crew wore T shirts reading, “Save Trump; Vote Vivek.” That frosted Trump’s supporters, and Trump himself.

But his withdrawal statement managed to lay all that aside. Indeed, to paraphrase Shakespeare:

Nothing in his [campaign] / became him like the leaving it. MacBeth I.iv.8-9, paraphrase

Laura Loomer seemed to agree.

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Well she might. Ramaswamy’s staff never expelled her from any of his functions, as DeSantis’ and Haley’s staff both did.

More to the point, Trump won the Iowa Caucuses, not only with a clear majority of votes cast (scoring half the delegates), but also with the largest margin of victory ever recorded in an open contest – 29.8 percent, up from the record of 12 percent.

Tellingly, the Democrats won’t even hold caucuses, except to debate Party business only. Instead they will award their delegates by mail-in ballots only. That’s a clear signal of how they intend to win – or cheat.

But for Republicans, the path is clear. Donald Trump has won the day. DeSantis and Haley should accept the situation gracefully, and bow out.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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