January 16, 2024

Digesting Iowa Republican caucus results

The big surprise of the 2024 Republican Iowa caucuses was not the margin of Trump's victory or that he won massively, it was that Ron DeSantis came in second.  Pollsters were pointing to a Nikki Haley second place finish. She came third, despite the polls indicating she would run second, and despite the establishment push for her. Vivek Ramaswamy ran fourth as expected, but he did so in a classy way, and bowed out afterward the results were clear, quickly throwing his endorsement behind president Trump.

Most of Vivek's support will likely flow to Trump, though truthfully he really needs no help. It should allow him to run up the score, and it's smart that it comes pre New Hampshire. Trump is leading Nikki Haley there by roughly 14 points according RCP. Vivek's 5 points in that state could allow Trump some additional buffer.

President Trump was uncharacteristically magnanimous in victory, complimenting his primary rivals.  It's of course much easier to be gracious when you have an almost certain lock on the nomination. But that probably helps his candidacy.  His post caucus speech sounded very much like someone wanting the country to come together. It certainly will help him when he wraps up the nomination, to bring the Republican party together. And it will definitely help him in the general election, since the Democrats and media are prepared only for the belligerent version of Trump. It will make Let's Go Brandon look all the more bitter by comparison. At least it will help until the left catches on.  Luckily they don't tend to catch on quickly. It's a smart strategy for Trump.

Ron DeSantis, by coming second, will remain in the race. Even if he knows he cannot win (which may or may not be the actual case), he cannot drop out after a surprise second place finish when he was expected to come third.  It looks bad for his 2028 run if he folds so quickly. DeSantis staying in the race hurts Haley more than Trump. The anti-Trump vote split into two candidates helps Trump possibly even more than a Trump blowout in Iowa. If Trump gets a double digit lead in New Hampshire, going into South Carolina he is expected to blow out everyone again, it could be over that early. That's optimistic but the longer DeSantis stays in the race, the worse the chance become for Nikki Haley, the establishment uni-party darling. 

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