by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Donald Trump won the Iowa caucuses on Monday, solidifying his status as the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination and face President Joe Biden in the general election. The outcome was never in doubt. Media outlets declared Trump the winner shortly after the first results were reported, before some caucusesgoers had even cast their votes. …
… The second-place finish could give DeSantis a much-needed boost, but Haley is also strongly positioned. She leads DeSantis by double digits in the upcoming primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. She is polling within striking distance of Trump in the Granite State, which holds its primary next Tuesday.
Both candidates on Monday sought to manage expectations ahead of the caucuses as temperatures dipped below zero across much of the Hawkeye State. Haley’s campaign touted Trump’s boastful prediction that he would win Iowa by 60 points, presumably in an effort to frame his (inevitably) less impressive victory as a failure.
Team DeSantis presented a similar challenge to Haley, suggesting it was “second place or bust” for the rival candidate. Anything less would be “an embarrassing loss” for Haley, the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down wrote in an email to supporters. DeSantis himself took a shot at Trump on Monday morning, telling supporters at a rally in Sergeant Bluff that “not a lot” of people “who served in [Trump’s] administration are willing to publicly support him.”
Recent polling suggests Haley and DeSantis would beat Biden if the general election were held today—Haley by eight points, DeSantis by three points, according to a CBS News poll published over the weekend. That same poll showed Trump also leading Biden (by two points) in a head-to-head matchup, which will blunt his rivals’ ability to cast themselves as more “electable” ahead of New Hampshire and South Carolina, where Trump is poised to win comfortably absent a significant shift in the dynamics of the race.