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Trump coasts in Iowa caucuses

By HENG WEILI in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-01-16 12:10

Republican presidential candidate and former US President Donald Trump visits a caucus site at Horizon Event Center in Clive, Iowa, US Jan 15, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

Former US president Donald Trump coasted to victory in the Iowa caucuses on Monday evening — according to early vote counts and media projections — as voters braved subzero temperatures in a Republican contest that officially kicked off the 2024 US presidential campaign.

Both The Associated Press and CNN called the contest for Trump about a half-hour after the results started coming in.

As of 10 pm ET, with 38 percent of the votes tallied, Trump had 52.8 percent, followed by Ron DeSantis with 20 percent, Nikki Haley with 18.7 percent, and Vivek Ramaswamy with 7.7 percent, according to the AP.

Trump was heavily favored in the caucuses, which were being billed as a battle for second place between Florida governor DeSantis and the former South Carolina governor Haley. Also still drawing some enthusiastic crowds was Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur.

Five polls in the last two days on the Real Clear Politics website showed Trump's lead ranging from 28 to 55 points, with Haley and DeSantis averaging in the teens, and Ramaswamy in single digits.

More than 1,600 caucus meetings started in Iowa at 7 pm CST (8 pm ET) Monday, with complete results expected as late as 1 am ET Tuesday.

Despite his polling advantage, Trump, 77, has directed his signature name-calling at his opponents, referring to DeSantis, 45, as "DeSanctimonious" and "DeSanctis", while declining to participate in any of the several Republican debates.

On Monday, Trump, however, called DeSantis "MAGA-Lite", a backhanded compliment. In 2016, Trump campaigned on the slogan "Make America Great Again" (MAGA).

Trump has called Haley, 51, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, an "unwanted globalist" and "RINO" (Republican In Name Only).

And for the first time, Trump on Saturday went after Ramaswamy, 38, who has been supportive of the former president.

"Vivek started his campaign as a great supporter, 'the best President in generations,' etc.," Trump wrote on his Truth Social social media site. "Unfortunately, now all he does is disguise his support in the form of deceitful campaign tricks. Very sly, but a vote for Vivek is a vote for the 'other side' — don't get duped by this."

Ramaswamy told The New York Times in Waterloo, Iowa, on Monday that Trump "probably had the B team around him" and said the barbs showed that his own campaign was "surging here on the ground".

Trump also has had to contend with four indictments at the state and federal levels, along with attempts in some states to remove him from the November ballot over the Jan 6, 2021, uprising at the US Capitol. Trump has called the charges a politically motivated "witch hunt".

DeSantis, 45, had spent the most time of any candidate in Iowa, and many pundits said a less than decent showing in the Midwestern state could irreparably damage his campaign.

But DeSantis told NBC News: "We're going on with this. We've been built for the long haul."

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds endorsed DeSantis, much to the consternation of Trump.

DeSantis, who campaigned in all of Iowa's 99 counties, is trailing Trump and Haley in the more politically moderate state of New Hampshire, which will hold its primary election on Jan 24.

"Today's the day we make history because we tune out the noise of the media, we tune out the noise of the politicians, and we raise the voices of Americans that say we want a better day," Haley told supporters at a diner in Iowa on Monday.

The winner of the Republican nomination is expected to run against President Joe Biden, 81, a Democrat who has been facing consistently low job-approval ratings. A recent ABC News poll had Biden at 31 percent approval.

Unlike a regular election, Iowa's caucuses require voters to gather in person in small groups at churches, schools and community centers, where they cast secret ballots after hearing speeches from campaign representatives, Reuters reported.

Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann said on Sunday that the speeches could play an important role because candidates had to cancel several events due to the weather, Reuters reported.

The temperature in Iowa's capital city of Des Moines at 6:20 pm CST Monday was -3 F, according to AccuWeather.

"An already unpredictable and quirky process is even more so this year, thanks to dangerously cold weather and an unusually uncompetitive contest," wrote New York Times political reporter Jonathan Swan.

Some of the state's Democratic voters had registered as Republicans to try to influence the caucus results.

"I just want to be able to look back and say I did what I could to keep Donald Trump from getting elected," said Toni Van Voorhis, 65, a cross-over voter who plans to support Haley, reported Reuters.


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