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Donald Trump is betting big on Monday's caucuses in Iowa

Joe Raedle Getty Images via Agence France-Presse Donald Trump took part in a town hall on Fox News on January 10, the same evening that his main Republican rivals, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, faced off in a televised debate on CNN.

Fabien Deglise

January 12, 2024 Analysis

  • United States

It was only a matter of time, which finally arrived before time. On Wednesday, the only candidate in the Republican primary who was not afraid to openly criticize Donald Trump, Chris Christie, officially withdrew from the race. All this a few days before the Iowa caucuses, which officially launch the 2024 American presidential campaign next Monday.

Lagging behind in the polls, the former governor of New Jersey admitted “not seeing the path” that could lead him to victory. He hopes that, by reducing the choice presented to voters, his gesture will counter the momentum that former President Trump could easily gain at the start of the electoral race.

“I want to make sure that under no circumstances does Donald Trump become president of the United States again,” he told supporters gathered in Windham, New Hampshire, the nation's second electoral battleground. Republican nomination. “And that’s more important than my personal ambition. »

On the eve of the Iowa race, the populist dominates without a shadow of a doubt in this state, where the polls in recent days gave him a lead varying from 32 to 43 points on his main rivals, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, and the former American ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Mathematics which announces the certainty of a victory without hiding the risk that this first election also represents for the populist.

“The polls have Trump so far ahead that it would be very surprising if he didn't win Iowa. The question, however, is to what extent he will do it,” remarked Tim Hagle, professor of political science at the University of Iowa, in an interview. “If Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley get a little too close to him, it could indicate that he is vulnerable” and compromise the continuation of his campaign towards the Republican national convention, scheduled for this summer in Milwaukee, where the identity must be made official of the party's candidate for the next presidential election.

However, appearances are often deceiving on the road to Iowa. The former American president is well placed to know this: in 2016, during his first attempt to access the White House, the polls gave him victory in this state by a lead of five points over his rival from the At the time, Ted Cruz. The caucuses, however, decided otherwise and offered the former reality TV star a second place with 24% of the vote, compared to 28% for the Texas senator.

It is undoubtedly to prevent this scenario from happening again that the ex-president's team has made significant efforts on the ground in recent months in order to “train” Republican voters to the particularities of the electoral caucuses.

Different from primary elections, which consist of placing a ballot in a box during the day of voting or sometimes even in advance, caucuses count the voters physically present at a given location on the evening of voting in order to to support the candidacy of their choice.

Revive the vote

In addition, Trump has designated “precinct captains” in the state's approximately 1,700 electoral “zones” to channel the vote in his favor on the evening of January 15 and, above all, improve his electoral performance on the ground.

Last December, a Des Moines Register poll found that 63 percent of new entrants to the Republican caucuses favor the ex-president. In total, 51% of this party's voters — young and old — put it at the top of their list.

“Donald Trump has the most elaborate and sophisticated caucus night framework I have ever seen in my 50 years of studying this subject,” summarizes political scientist Steffen Schmidt , joined this week by Le Devoir at Iowa State University.

This should encourage electoral participation in a context that is not very conducive to this, as much for Donald Trump as for the others. Because the US weather service has announced the arrival of a winter storm and freezing winds in the US state starting Sunday evening, which will cause the mercury to drop below zero degrees Fahrenheit, or -17 degrees Celsius.

A cold snap which adds to the uncertainty of a result that Donald Trump hopes will be “brilliant”. The populist has been calling on his supporters for weeks to give him a “very significant margin” compared to his adversaries so that he can quickly establish himself as the one and only Republican candidate capable of dislodging Joe Biden from the White House.

He knows that a solid second place for Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley, if it is far from the spectacular gap predicted by the polls, would add fuel to their campaign. It would also present them as viable options other than a candidacy colored by the defeats of 2020 and 2022 — and threatened by indictments that will intersect in a historic way with the presidential campaign of 2024.

After Iowa, New Hampshire

“A good second place for Nikki Haley could help her in New Hampshire,” assures David Peterson, specialist in voting habits and professor at Iowa State University. “That’s what we’re going to have to watch out for. »

“In New Hampshire, she obviously has a chance to do something that no one thought was possible, which is to beat Trump, first of all,” he said earlier this week in an interview with the Associated Press the governor of New Hampshire, Republican Chris Sununu. Last year, in a notable gesture, he also gave his support to the politician.

This week, a University of New Hampshire poll conducted for CNN confirmed a narrowing gap between the populist and the former South Carolina governor. The latter garners 32% of voting intentions in this New England state, compared to 39% for Trump. Chris Christie was going for 12%, but is now out of the running.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116