Republicans shift to New Hampshire after Trump's record Iowa win
Republican candidates trying to stop Donald Trump from being the party's White House nominee turned on Tuesday to New Hampshire, the next nominating contest, having lost to the former president by historic margins in Iowa.
After trouncing his rivals in Iowa despite multiple criminal and civil cases, Trump, 77, appeared in a New York court on Tuesday to defend himself against charges he defamed writer E. Jean Carroll after she accused him of raping her decades ago.
More than half of Iowa voters stuck with Trump, propelling him toward what looks set to be a close and acrimonious rematch against Democratic President Joe Biden, 81, in the campaign for November's presidential election.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, 45, finished well behind Trump in second place in Iowa, pushing former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, 51, into third.
Trump has spurned debates with the other two, and on Tuesday, Haley said she would skip any future Republican debates unless Trump attends. Two such debates are due to take place in New Hampshire on Thursday and Sunday night.
Haley, a former South Carolina governor who has previously spoken of how voters in New Hampshire can "correct" the Iowa result, is polling second to Trump in the New England state, with DeSantis far behind.
"The next debate I do will either be with Donald Trump or with Joe Biden," she wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. DeSantis accused her of being afraid to answer tough questions ahead of New Hampshire's Jan. 23 contest.
The Northeastern state is well-known for its relatively moderate, libertarian-minded brand of Republicanism.
Moreover, the primary contest in New Hampshire is "semi-open," meaning voters who are not registered with any party can participate, which can reward candidates perceived to be centrists.
Trying to take advantage, Haley has campaigned heavily in New Hampshire while DeSantis bet heavily on Iowa.
Haley was to hold a rally in New Hampshire on Tuesday with the state governor, Chris Sununu, who has endorsed her. DeSantis is set to hold a town hall event after first stopping in Haley's home state of South Carolina, and Trump will deliver remarks at a country club.
Trump is the only current or ex-US president to be charged with criminal activity, but he won by an unprecedented margin for an Iowa Republican contest, strengthening his case that his nomination is a foregone conclusion given his massive lead in national polls.
His Iowa triumph showed his enduring popularity among Republicans even after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters and his 91 criminal charges he tried to overturn the 2020 election, retained classified documents and falsified records over hush money payments to a porn star.
He won 51% support in Iowa, a Midwestern farm state — a victory margin that far surpassed the previous record of 12.8 percentage points for Bob Dole in 1988.
DeSantis won 21% and Haley 19%, with 99% of the expected vote tallied, according to Edison Research. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out after securing just 8% of Monday's vote and endorsed Trump. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson ended his campaign on Tuesday, CNN reported.
Trump is hoping to fast-track the normally months-long Republican selection process with a series of convincing early primary wins to force out his rivals.
Biden used Trump's decisive Iowa win to frame the November election as a battle against "extreme MAGA Republicans," a reference to Trump's Make America Great Again slogan, and urged supporters to donate to his re-election campaign.
Trump claims falsely that his 2020 election loss to Biden was due to widespread fraud and has vowed, if elected again, to punish his political enemies and introduce new tariffs on imports.
He has drawn criticism for increasingly authoritarian language, including comments that undocumented immigrants were "poisoning the blood of our country." He has also vowed to end the Ukraine-Russia war in 24 hours, without saying how.
Trump has used his legal travails to fundraise and boost his support as he protests his innocence and says he is the victim of a "witch hunt." He holds a 37-point lead among Republicans, according to the most recent nationwide Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Nearly two-thirds of Iowa caucus-goers embraced his false claims about voter fraud in 2020, saying they did not think Biden legitimately beat Trump. More than 60% said Trump would still be fit to serve as president even if convicted of a crime.
Trump faces four prosecutions, setting up the unprecedented prospect of a president being convicted or even serving from behind bars, with the courts almost certainly weighing in at every stage.
"Absent a quick consolidation of the field, Trump appears to be on a fast track to the nomination," said Jimmy Centers, an Iowa-based Republican strategist.
Still, both DeSantis and Haley vowed to press ahead.
"We've got our ticket punched out of Iowa!" DeSantis told supporters in West Des Moines on Monday.
But DeSantis' campaign is in trouble and he risks funding problems going forward after failing to deliver a breakthrough performance in Iowa despite heavy campaigning there.
Iowans braved life-threatening temperatures to gather for the state's first-in-the-nation caucus, as the 2024 presidential campaign officially got underway after months of debates and rallies.
"Trump is very narcissistic, he's very cocky, but he's going to get stuff done," said Rita Stone, 53, a Trump backer who attended a caucus at a West Des Moines high school.