Former President Donald Trump, celebrating his landslide victory in Iowa’s Republican presidential caucus, quickly set his sights on the state that votes next in the GOP nominating calendar.
“It’s now off to New Hampshire, a great place,” Trump told supporters at his victory celebration in Iowa’s capital and largest city.
Trump, the commanding GOP frontrunner in his bid to win back his old job in the White House, bulldozed his rivals in Iowa’s lead-off contest.
He captured a majority of the vote on Monday night, shattering the old record for margin of victory in Iowa’s Republican caucuses, and his lightning fast victory was a first step toward capturing the GOP nomination.
Trump made history last year as the first former or current president to be indicted for a crime, but his four indictments, including charges he tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss, have only fueled his support among Republican voters.
Heading into the caucuses, Trump enjoyed a massive lead in public opinion polls in Iowa and in national surveys in the GOP nomination race.
“He basically met expectations, and that’s what he wanted. He wanted to be over 50, and he did it,” longtime Republican strategist and Iowa campaign veteran David Kochel told Fox News. “Trump did what he needed to do.”
Season Iowa-based Republican strategist Jimmy Centers told that Trump “won across all demographics…it tells me they had a very sophisticated data-driven operation. They knew where their margins were. They hit those in the final stretch to get that number up over 50%. It’s a really impressive showing.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who staked much of his presidential campaign on a strong finish in Iowa, narrowly edged out former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration, for a distant second place to the former president.
“They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us,” DeSantis said in a Monday night speech to supporters, referencing the onslaught of negative attacks and ads he faced from his rivals.
“Because of your support, in spite of all of that that they threw at us, everyone against us, we’ve got our ticket punched out of Iowa,” he touted.
DeSantis, who was convincingly re-elected to a second term as Florida governor 14 months ago, was once the clear alternative to Trump in the Republican White House race.
However, after a series of campaign setbacks over the summer and autumn, and the withering attacks from Trump and his allies, DeSantis saw his support in the polls erode.
Heading into the caucuses, DeSantis was betting that his vaulted ground game in Iowa, which is heavily reliant on the aligned super PAC Never Back Down, would carry him across the finish line.
Haley grabbed momentum during the fall months and caught up with DeSantis for second place in polls in Iowa and in national surveys in recent weeks.
She also surged to second place, surpassing DeSantis and narrowing the gap with Trump, in New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP nominating calendar. The Granite State’s Jan. 23 primary is just a week away.
Haley, addressing her supporters on Monday night, once again framed the nomination race as a contest between herself and Trump.
“When you look at how we’re doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, and beyond, I can safely say tonight Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race,” she argued.
Multimillionaire biotech entrepreneur and first time candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who relentlessly campaigned across Iowa in recent months, suspended his campaign after finishing a distant fourth place.
Ramaswamy said he called Trump to congratulate him and said he would attend a rally with the former president in New Hampshire on Tuesday.
“There needs to be an America First candidate in this race,” Ramaswamy said. “Going forward, he will have my full endorsement for the presidency.”
Turnout in the caucuses, which will likely be around 110,000 when all votes are counted, is the lowest in over two decades. The frigid sub-zero temperatures that followed a weekend blizzard appeared to depress turnout in Iowa.
But Centers noted that Trump’s “people were still that motivated to come out and show up. It speaks to his grip on the party and if any other candidate wants a shot at slowing him down in this race for the nomination, they need very quick field consolidation. And someone needs to stop him in New Hampshire.”
New Hampshire, where independent and moderate voters play a crucial role in the state’s storied presidential primary, rarely follows in Iowa’s footsteps.
Kochel, pointing to DeSantis and Haley, emphasized that “the race for second kind of still looks muddled. They both kind of limp on with Haley holding the stronger cards” in New Hampshire and her home state, which holds the first southern contest in late February.