All eyes on Iowa as Republicans prepare to caucus. Politics

Republican presidential candidates have spent more than a year touring Iowa, braving frigid weather to hold hundreds of events in the state's 99 counties, and collectively spending more than $100 million on campaign ads there. Have done.

And that's all for the dubious distinction of who will finish second and third in the Buckeye State's GOP caucuses on Jan. 15 — and even those top-tier performances may put them ahead of the Republican frontrunner. The person hoping to become the runner-up, Donald Trump, suffered a spectacular fall.

For decades, the mantra from the site of the nation's first presidential nominating contest has been that "Iowa has three tickets," meaning that the state's voters win the primary field for the upcoming primaries.

But this year, former President Donald Trump is so influential that his victory there is considered almost certain — so much so that runners-up are reluctant to attack their primary foe for fear of alienating their fervent supporters.

"It's a foregone conclusion that President Trump is going to win," the only open questions are whether he gets more than 50% of the votes in the caucus and "who takes second place," said GOP strategist Jimmy Centers, a former aide. They say. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds who now heads the public relations and strategic communications firm Cornerstone.

And even a strong second or third-place showing does not guarantee anything other than Trump's legitimate hope of finishing second in the political duel.

"It becomes a matter of expectations," says Republican consultant Matt Gorman, vice president of the firm Targeted Victory. For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis "has staked his entire candidacy on Iowa," Gorman says.

"If he comes in third place or doesn't meet expectations, it could be a tough morning for him," says Gorman, referring to Tuesday the 16th after Iowa Republicans announced the results of their caucuses.

Editorial cartoon on Donald Trump

DeSantis, who initially presented himself as a younger and less legally troubled version of Trump, has focused heavily on Iowa. DeSantis, known for his tough stances against abortion and LGBTQ+ preferences, could get a boost from Iowa Republican voters who are unusually socially conservative.

However, he faces a late surge from former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who threatens to snatch second place from DeSantis and jeopardize his entire presidential bid.

Meanwhile, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy — despite completing what local polls call "complete Grassley" twice, having visited all of the state's counties as veteran GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley is famous for doing — is seeing his polling numbers. Are struggling to move beyond the mid single digits. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie is skipping Iowa to focus solely on New Hampshire, while back-of-the-packers Asa Hutchinson, former Arkansas governor and businessman Ryan Binkley are barely in the political conversation in Iowa. Only those are involved.

DeSantis has earned the endorsement of both Reynolds and the state's influential evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats. But even those outpourings of support aren't swaying Iowa Republicans from the Trump camp. And notably, the Trump campaign released a new TV ad this week, “Enough,” which exposes Haley to criticism over border control policy — suggesting that Trump views Haley as a major threat. Let's see.

"Donald Trump is a step ahead in this area," says David Oman, former co-chair of the Iowa Republican Party, former chief of staff to two GOP Iowa governors and a prominent Haley supporter. "Why Governor DeSantis is still talking about winning (Iowa) is beyond me. He's setting himself up for some real 'splaining' when he goes to New Hampshire," where Haley polls. I am moving forward.

Iowa has long been an opportunity for candidates, a place where even a relative political unknown can win over people with hard work and one-on-one campaigning. For example, former President Jimmy Carter was a longtime favorite when the then-governor of Georgia went to Iowa in early 1975, traveling to small towns and rural areas to court voters. His victory in the Iowa Democratic caucuses in 1976 gave him momentum to win in New Hampshire and beyond, culminating in a victory in the general election in November of that year.

But that equation hasn't worked so well for GOP contenders this year.

DeSantis has hosted 107 events during that span, while Haley has appeared at 70. But nonetheless, Haley is trailing DeSantis, taking advantage of strong debate performances and campaign setbacks by the Florida governor. And Trump? Despite making only 25 trips to Iowa in the past year and change, he is far ahead of his challengers, planning to skip another GOP debate on Wednesday to participate in a Fox News town hall.

"I think Trump is stuck in this," says Stephen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University. "There's something about Trump that's just different. His die-hard supporters are just passionate about him, in a way that's not political."

Trump will be in Iowa today as part of the final series of "commitment to caucus" events. However, he is not scheduled to return to Iowa until a week from today – leaving his work week free for the busy litigation period for the four-time convicted former president. Legal motions in his Georgia conspiracy case are scheduled for Monday, oral arguments are scheduled for Tuesday in the District of Columbia on Trump's claim of immunity from prosecution for his presidency, and closing arguments in a New York civil lawsuit against Trump for Thursday. are scheduled for.

The morning after Trump's anticipated victory in the Iowa caucuses, a trial began in New York to determine a second set of damages in a defamation case brought by author E. Jean Carroll.

For the most part, Trump and President Joe Biden are in normal campaign mode. The 2024 Trump campaign memo released to the media this week singles out Biden and criticizes legal efforts to remove Trump from primary ballots without naming any of his primary foes.

The Biden-Kamala Harris campaign has stepped up its general election campaign, with the president speaking today to mark the three-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The event was billed as a campaign event, not a White House event, as had been the case in previous remarks of the day.

The campaign is also releasing a 60-second TV spot on Saturday linking the Jan. 6 riots to Trump and saying "MAGA extremism threatens the survival of our nation's democracy, which now defines the Republican Party."

On Monday, Biden will speak at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist shot nine black parishioners in 2015. Harris is also scheduled to visit South Carolina, the state that propelled Biden to the Democratic nomination in 2020. .She will also travel to campaign on abortion rights, which remains a powerful political issue following a 2022 Supreme Court decision overturning the guaranteed legal right to the procedure.

The Iowa Democrats' traditional first caucus will not be held on January 15, but instead party gatherings will be hosted that day and a mail-in contest will be held, the results of which will be announced on Super Tuesday, March 5.

And while the GOP winner in Iowa is almost certain, the state still played a significant role in the primary process.

"Iowa has already done its job, which is to narrow the field," says Schmidt, noting that several former GOP contenders — including former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and other lesser-known Presidential candidates included – have already left the race after failing to gain hold in Iowa.

However, unless Trump has a major setback that derails his campaign, the GOP field may already be narrowing to one.

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