by John Zogby

Former President Donald Trump won a breathtaking victory in the Iowa caucuses Monday night. His more than 50% share of the vote is a record for a non-incumbent President in Iowa and he won all but one county.  Importantly, the entrance polls strongly argue that those who braved the extreme cold to caucus are indeed the Trump Republican Party.

Fifty-one percent of those who voted called themselves “very conservative” and Trump won 62% of them; another 36% said they were “somewhat conservative” and he won a majority of them. Unlike an Iowa GOP that voted for the likes of George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, only 11% identified as moderates. About half said they were part of the “MAGA movement”, and Trump scored a whopping 78%, while his next in line challenger, Vivek Ramaswami, won 10%, Ron De Santis 9%, and Nikki Haley 3%. Among the half who called themselves “white evangelicals, Trump won 55% to De Santis’ distant 24%, Haley’s 12%, and Ramaswami’s 8%.

Almost two in three (64%) called the former President “fit to serve even if convicted of crimes”), while 31% said he was not. That is surely a red flag for the general election, but that is another topic for later. Only 30% of Iowa’s voters feel that Joe Biden was elected legitimately in 2020. Among this group, Haley won 54% to De Santis’s 30%.Moreover, Trump further expanded his base of support. He won among the college-educated with 36% to Haley’s 30%, and 27% for De Santis. Trump killed among those without a college education with 6% of this vote, to a mere 16% for De Santis and 10% for Haley.  

The upshot? The former President won impressively. More importantly, neither of his major challengers actually matched their own expectations. De Santis did not win, despite spending $150 million and visiting all 99 counties, but he did edge out a second place. His team agonized all night about whether or not he should stay in the race. His plan is to fly to South Carolina, then later head to New Hampshire where he is very weak in the polls (barely 7%). De Santis feels he can defeat Haley in her home state. It is hard to see how this is possible. Haley feels she came close enough (polls showed her around 20%-22%) and looks like she will get around 19%. She will hit the ground running in New Hampshire where polls show her polling a closer race with Trump and where there is a friendlier turnout model for her – as many as 55% independent and moderate. She also has the support of popular Governor John Sununu. But I am not sure she received the bounce she needed out of Iowa. And after South Carolina, most states have closed primaries and Trump owns the party. Ramaswami has just announced he is suspending his campaign and is likely to endorse Trump.

Trump gave a conciliatory speech in his victory saying his goal is party unity. He did not get that love from his opponents, but it is very hard to see how the new Trump Party denies its namesake the prize in Milwaukee. 

Now anything can happen and the worst news for the former President is that about one-third of his own party feel he is not fit to serve if he is convicted.

Two final  notes: agreeing and disagreeing with final results is what democracy is all about. For those whose candidates have lost, moving on and doing better is the path to take and finding ways of cooperating with winners the best approach for peace. Run and win the next time. It was great fun for me watching the old-fashioned manual ballots and oral counting, rechecking and vocal recording of results. Just pure fun. 

And the polls were right. They all undercounted De Santis but certainly did not give his forces reasons to despair. They were spot on with Trump (special congratulation to Trafalgar for nailing this one).

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