Skip to content
Trump Wins Iowa, as Expected
Go to my account

Trump Wins Iowa, as Expected

Trump cruises to victory as his two remaining opponents try to claim momentum.

Happy Tuesday! If you changed the channel during last night’s Iowa caucuses in the hopes of catching something a little less stressful, you may have instead been alarmed to see a large goblin creeping down the red carpet at the Emmys. And no, we’re not talking about the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • U.S. Central Command reported Monday that the Gibraltar Eagle, a shipping vessel flagged by the Marshall Islands and owned and operated by the U.S.-based Eagle Bulk Shipping, had been struck by a Houthi-launched ballistic missile in the Gulf of Aden. The attack marked the first time an American ship has been targeted since last week’s U.S.-led strikes against Houthi infrastructure in Yemen. The ship reported no injuries, avoided serious damage, and continued on its journey, but the U.S. Maritime Administration issued a warning on Monday to ships traversing through the Red Sea due to the “high degree of risk to commercial vessels.” QatarEnergy, one of the world’s largest shippers of natural gas, directed its ships on Monday to avoid the busy commercial waterway.
  • Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Monday evening fired a barrage of missiles at northern Iraq, including near the U.S. consulate in Erbil, targeting what Iranian officials described as an Israeli-run “espionage center,” ostensibly in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike that killed a senior IRGC official last month. While U.S. officials stated that no American facilities were impacted by the strikes, Kurdish authorities reported that at least four civilians were killed and six were injured. Also on Monday night, the IRGC said it launched missile strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria in response to the terrorist group’s suicide bombing in Kerman, Iran, earlier this month, which killed nearly 100 people at a ceremony commemorating the fourth anniversary of the death of Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani.
  • The government of Nauru, a small island nation in the Pacific, announced on Monday that it would sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and instead foster relations with China. The move comes just days after Taiwan’s presidential election elevated ruling party candidate Lai Ching-te, whom Beijing views as a separatist. Taiwanense officials blasted the sudden decision as “retaliation for democratic values and a blatant challenge to the international order.”
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, the Pentagon announced, and will perform his duties remotely as he continues to recover. Austin was hospitalized on January 1 due to complications resulting from prostate cancer treatment, and came under fire after not disclosing his hospitalization to senior security officials or President Joe Biden. Austin is not scheduled to receive any additional treatments, and Biden has said he does not plan to remove Austin for his failure to communicate.
  • Former President Donald Trump won the Iowa caucuses last night, beating his opponents by a record-setting 30-point margin as he captured 51 percent of the vote and 98 out of 99 counties in the state. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis placed second, with 21 percent of the vote, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley placed third, with 19 percent. Vivek Ramaswamy, garnering around 8 percent, suspended his campaign after coming in fourth place and formally endorsed Trump.
  • The Bear and Succession won six Emmys each at last night’s 75th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, including the awards for best comedy and best drama, respectively. Sir Elton John won an award for his concert film, Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium, completing his EGOT quadfecta.

And Then There Were Three?

DES MOINES, IOWA – JANUARY 15: Former President Donald Trump speaks at his caucus night event at the Iowa Events Center on January 15, 2024, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On a typical election night, the press calling a race for a candidate is usually accompanied by live footage of said person’s headquarters, where cheering supporters laud the news in real time. Last night, however, when major networks called the Iowa caucuses for former President Donald Trump, the news echoed around an empty event space. It was so early in the evening that Trump’s supporters hadn’t even arrived at the victory party. 

Sidestepping snowdrifts and icicles during the coldest caucuses ever, Iowa Republicans did what public polling suggested they would, delivering Trump a resounding victory that was called by several networks’ decision desks fewer than 40 minutes after the caucuses began—and before many caucus-goers had cast their votes. The former president won 98 out of 99 counties in the state. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis eked out a second-place finish with 21 percent of the vote, outperforming late-breaking polls that had him lagging behind former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who came in third, notching around 19 percent of the vote and winning one county by one vote. Trump’s landslide victory wasn’t his only boon for the night, either: Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who pulled around 8 percent of the vote, dropped out and endorsed the former president.

Despite Haley and DeSantis’ claims of a strong showing on Monday night, the results in Iowa were perhaps the best-case scenario for Trump: The GOP nominating contest now moves on to New Hampshire without a consensus alternative to the frontrunner, and a candidate whose voters largely like Trump is now out of the race, freeing his supporters to drift back to the former president.

(Via Joe Schueller)

The second-place finisher was quick to cry foul play after the early election calls for Trump. “They even called the election before people even got a chance to vote,” DeSantis said in his speech last night. DeSantis’ campaign manager, James Uthmeier, said, “I personally spoke in multiple precincts and while I’m presenting and delivering the closing argument for Ron DeSantis and actually flipping voters, people start getting alerts on their phones saying the race is over.” A spokesperson for the campaign described the early calls as “election interference.”

But Trump’s unusually quick victory wasn’t the only reason last night’s caucuses were a bit out of the ordinary: The weather was particularly frigid, even for Iowa in January. When Republican caucus-goers started streaming into school gyms and church fellowship halls in Des Moines last night, the actual, on-the-ground temperature was hovering somewhere around minus 4 degrees. The “feels-like” temperature—which anyone who has ever been cold knows is the far more important metric—was minus 22 degrees. Despite the chill, Trump told supporters at a rally in Indianola, Iowa, on Sunday that it would be “worth it” to come out and caucus for him—even if they died because of it. “It has nothing to do with anything except taking our nation back,” he insisted. “And that’s the biggest thing there is.”

As it turned out, Iowa voters may not have been willing to risk hypothermia. A record-setting 180,000 Republicans caucused in Iowa in 2016, but last night, turnout came in a little above 100,000. Iowans are used to the cold, but yesterday’s weather was enough to spook even some locals. Try getting into a cold car in minus-13-degree weather, veteran Iowa-based GOP strategist David Kochel told Sarah and Steve on Monday night’s Dispatch Live. “I have to tell you, it’s painful,” Kochel said. “It hurts. It’s like stepping into a big steel icebox. And that’s different than what we see in a normal cold caucus, even one that has snow. This one is different.” 

The relative certainty of the outcome may have also made caucus-goers reluctant to put themselves through arctic temps on the last night of a three-day weekend. “This campaign hasn’t been all that interesting,” Kochel added. “We’ve had Donald Trump leading from pillar to post.” Trump maintained his strong lead in the polls ahead of Monday’s contest. On Saturday, the Des Moines Register released its poll—run by famed non-partisan pollster J. Ann Selzer—showing the former president commanding 48 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers’ votes. Haley moved into second place behind her former boss, polling four points ahead of DeSantis’ 16 percent.

But what are polls compared to the real thing? The pageant of democracy itself—which in this case included a delightful variety of ballot receptacles, including empty ice cream containers and popcorn buckets—saw Trump best the Register’s poll from late last week. Yet for a candidate who trounced his opponents by a 30-point margin, Trump spent comparatively little time campaigning in the state. He visited less than a quarter of Iowa’s 99 counties and stuck mostly to large rallies more befitting an incumbent. Instead, his campaign and PAC poured resources into getting Trump voters to the caucuses. The result? His margin of victory was 40 percent larger than the second-place finisher’s total vote count.

The DeSantis campaign mounted a more traditional operation that bet big on Iowa, combining a formidable ground-game infrastructure to turn out supporters with a packed schedule of events. The Florida governor crisscrossed the state to visit all 99 counties, achieving what is known to politicos as the “full Grassley,” because longtime GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa makes a point to visit every county each year. DeSantis lined up big-name endorsements from the likes of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Bob Vander Plaats, an Iowa evangelical kingmaker. Still, DeSantis trained more of his fire at Haley than Trump during the waning weeks of the Iowa campaign, helping cement the reality that the caucuses—once viewed as the place where the student would unseat the master—were really a battle for second place. 

But DeSantis’ closing pitch to Iowans involved some of his sharpest criticisms of the former president yet. He criticized the frontrunner’s position on abortion as “not pro-life,” and argued that if Trump is the nominee, he’ll make the election a referendum on his own issues—namely the criminal indictments he faces. “I think that ends up focusing the election on things that are going to be advantageous for Democrats,” DeSantis told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl over the weekend. “You’re not going to be talking about the border. You’re not going to be talking about the economy. You’re going to be talking about all these things to make the election a referendum on Donald Trump.” At a rally in Ankeny, Iowa, on Sunday, DeSantis told his supporters they “deserve a nominee that’s going to put you first, not himself first.” 

A third-place finish last night could have very well knocked DeSantis out of the contest. But by clinging to a narrow margin over Haley, the Florida governor was able to take the stage last night and claim that, although the media was arraigned against him, “We’ve got our ticket punched out of Iowa.” DeSantis is polling in the single digits in New Hampshire, the next state on the nominating calendar. 

Haley, for her part, closed out her Hawkeye campaign with elevated expectations, surpassing DeSantis in the Register poll and picking an endorsement from former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. On the ground in Iowa, she campaigned through the snow and ice, reiterating her pitch to bring calm to a chaotic world and forestall the Republican chaos she says Trump creates. The super PAC supporting Haley—Stand for America Fund—threw punches at DeSantis in the latter days of the campaign, too, airing $1.6 million worth of ads accusing him of being a Trump lackey. “America needs strength,” the ad’s voiceover says. “Not a suck up.” 

Haley—more moderate than most of her primary opponents—had always seemed a more natural fit for New Hampshire’s primary electorate, but that didn’t mean she and her campaign weren’t cautiously optimistic heading into Monday night’s caucuses in the Hawkeye State. “We just want to be strong in Iowa,” Haley told Dispatch Politics on Sunday in Ames, Iowa. “We won’t know what ‘strong’ is until we see the numbers. But that’s what we’re aiming for.”  

Listening to Haley’s speech on Monday night, it sounds like she decided “strong” was third place (despite once saying she didn’t “play for second”). “When you look at how we’re doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, and beyond, I can safely say that tonight, Iowa made this a two-person race,” Haley told supporters. “Our campaign is the last best hope of stopping the Trump-Biden nightmare.”

Trump struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone in his victory speech last night, even complimenting his opponents. “I want to congratulate Ron and Nikki,” he said. “I think they did very well.” His comments leading up to the caucuses suggested he might claim the voting was rigged, warning of the potential for “dirty tricks” in Iowa from “dishonest RINOs and Globalists” who may claim the caucuses were postponed or canceled due to the inclement weather. After a flub by DeSantis’ wife Casey late last year—when she seemed to suggest DeSantis supporters from outside of Iowa should come to the state to caucus—the Trump campaign put out a mailer accusing DeSantis of trying to “rig” the caucuses and encouraging its supporters to “STOP THE FRAUD. REJECT DESANTIS ON JANUARY 15TH.”  

Perhaps Trump’s margin of victory made him comfortable accepting these results. His surrogates are already declaring the primary race essentially over, and the former president’s remarks last night smacked of a nominee wanting to turn his attention to the general election. “I really think it’s time now for everybody, our country, to come together,” he said last night. “We want to come together, whether it’s Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative, it would be so nice if we could come together and straighten out the world and straighten out the problems and straighten out a lot of the death and destruction that we’re witnessing. It’s practically never been like this. It’s just so important, and I want to make that a very big part of our message: We’re going to come together, it’s going to happen.”

With 49 percent of the Iowa electorate rejecting Trump, the race seems set to continue with three contenders—or rather, two second-tier candidates still trying to knock each other out for a chance to face the frontrunner one-on-one. But with every passing day, a 2020 rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden becomes more likely, much to the chagrin of a majority of American voters. “I’m really unhappy I have to make that choice,” Nathan Crozier of West Des Moines told Dispatch Politics Andrew Egger at DeSantis HQ Monday night. “It’s amazing to me that we have to choose between two 80-year-old people to be our president. It just blows my mind. We have 300 million people in the country. But this is the best we can do?”

Worth Your Time 

  • Writing for the Atlantic, McKay Coppins argues that the best way to understand Trump’s third presidential campaign might just be to attend a real-life rally. “[If] the glut of attention in 2016 desensitized the nation to Trump, the relative dearth in the past year has turned him into an abstraction. … These days, Trump exists in many Americans’ minds as a hazy silhouette—formed by preconceived notions and outdated impressions—rather than as an actual person who’s telling the country every day who he is and what he plans to do with a second term,” he wrote. To rectify this issue, Coppins advocated for Americans to attend a Trump rally in person—as an act of civic education—and judge for themselves the difference between 2016 Trump and 2024 Trump. “My own takeaway from the event was that there’s a reason Trump is no longer the cultural phenomenon he was in 2016. Yes, the novelty has worn off. But he also seems to have lost the instinct for entertainment that once made him so interesting to audiences. He relies on a shorthand legible only to his most dedicated followers, and his tendency to get lost in rhetorical cul-de-sacs of self-pity and anger wears thin. This doesn’t necessarily make him less dangerous. There is a rote quality now to his darkest rhetoric that I found more unnerving than when it used to command wall-to-wall news coverage.”

Presented Without Comment 

The Washington Post: D.C. Fire Responds to False 911 ‘Swatting’ Call Targeting White House

Also Presented Without Comment

Mediaite: Trump Fans at Iowa Rally Say ‘Absolutely’ They Want Dictator Trump Over Biden

Reporter: “Would you rather have Donald Trump as a dictator for four years or reelect Joe Biden for four years?”

Trump Supporter: “I would rather have Donald Trump—I’d like to see them repeal the Roosevelt law so that he can be president for a lot more than four years. But we—this country needs a dictator. I hate to say that, but it’s the truth.”

Toeing the Company Line

  • Missed last night’s Iowa-centric Dispatch Live? Steve and Sarah interviewed Iowa guru and Republican strategist David Kochel, and Jonah, Chris, Drucker, Andrew, and Mike all dropped in to discuss Iowa, New Hampshire, and more. This episode of Dispatch Live was available to all subscribers—anyone who missed the conversation can catch a rerun—either video or audio-only—by clicking here.
  • In the newsletters: Kevin debunked the myth (🔒) of the president-as-rainmaker and the Dispatch Politics crew previewed the race for second in Iowa.
  • On the podcasts: On the latest episode of Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David discuss a cert grant relating to homelessness in San Francisco and Massachusetts’ Eighth Amendment.
  • On the site: Doug Ollivant breaks down why Iraq is calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country, and Elizabeth Nolan Brown argues that surrogacy is good for both women and families.

Let Us Know

Who do you think emerged from Iowa with more momentum, Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis? Are Trump’s allies right that the GOP primary is essentially over?

James Scimecca works on editorial partnerships for The Dispatch, and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he served as the director of communications at the Empire Center for Public Policy. When James is not promoting the work of his Dispatch colleagues, he can usually be found running along the Potomac River, cooking up a new recipe, or rooting for a beleaguered New York sports team.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.