Iowa caucuses 2024 live: Donald Trump keeps huge lead as voters prepare to select Republican candidate amid extreme cold | US politics

Trump, Haley, DeSantis in big test in freezing Iowa

Joan E Greve

Joan E Greve

Iowa Republicans will brave brutally cold temperatures on Monday evening to participate in the state’s presidential caucuses, as Donald Trump remains the clear frontrunner in the race for his party’s nomination.

The final results will depend on turnout, which could be acutely impacted by the weather. After a blizzard swept through Iowa on Friday, many roads remained covered in snow as temperatures dropped well below freezing.

Trump acknowledged on Saturday that he was concerned about the weather affecting caucus turnout but expressed confidence in his supporters’ dedication.

“It’s going to be cold. It’s not going to be pleasant,” DeSantis said at a campaign event in West Des Moines on Saturday.

If you’re willing to brave the elements and be there for the couple hours that you have to be there, if you’re willing to do that and you’re willing to fight for me on Monday night, then as president I’ll be fighting for you for the next eight years.

Even as the National Weather Service warned of “life-threatening” cold, Iowa voters largely shrugged off questions about how they would reach their caucus sites.

“People in the country live like this all the time,” said Abbey Sindt, a caucus-goer who attended Haley’s town hall in Ames on Sunday. “So it’s really not that big of a deal, in my opinion.”

Max Richardson, who also attended the town hall, agreed with Sindt, saying,

Everyone’s shoveled out. Everyone’s getting the ice melt down. It’s just a question of, can you get the car there?

A supporter of former Donald Trump places a placard in a pile of snow as he braves the below zero temperatures to attend a rally in Indianola, Iowa.
A supporter of former Donald Trump places a placard in a pile of snow as he braves the below zero temperatures to attend a rally in Indianola, Iowa. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

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Key events

A passing weather system brought snowfall and temperatures dropped to about -20C (-4F) as voters prepared for the Republican party of Iowa’s presidential caucuses on Monday.

The National Weather Service in Des Moines has warned voters to expect “frigid” conditions to continue today with temperatures to rise midweek.

Frigid conditions are expected to continue, with coldest conditions today as highs remain below zero. By midweek, temperatures will improve into the teens before falling back into the single digits by Friday. Light snow chances remain late Wednesday and Thursday. #iawx pic.twitter.com/kPCzHncUpt

— NWS Des Moines (@NWSDesMoines) January 15, 2024

Ron DeSantis has dismissed Florida senator Marco Rubio’s backing of Donald Trump as evidence that the former president is in line with the “DC establishment”.

As we reported earlier, Rubio endorsed Trump on Sunday despite previously calling him a “con artist” who was not worthy of the presidency.

Speaking to CNN this morning, DeSantis pointed out that he had endorsements from more state lawmakers than Trump and Nikki Haley. He said:

Donald Trump is the party of Washington DC establishment. They have lined up behind him. I am the candidate that would be a change agent in Washington DC. And I like that contrast.

He said tonight’s caucuses will create a clear, binary choice for voters, adding: “I think people are going to say there’s only two possible nominees: Donald Trump or Governor DeSantis”.

We’re the only ones that have strong support amongst bedrock Republican conservative voters, and to win a Republican nomination, you have got to be able to do that. I think Iowa will show that very clearly.

Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis during a campaign event at an event space in Ankeny, Iowa, USA, on Sunday.
Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis during a campaign event at an event space in Ankeny, Iowa, USA, on Sunday. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA
Joan E Greve

Joan E Greve

The Democratic National Committee celebrated the Iowa caucuses by releasing its first youth-focused campaign ad of the 2024 election cycle.

The ad, which is running on campus kiosks at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, criticizes the Republican presidential candidates for their positions on the climate crisis.

In the video, Donald Trump is seen describing climate change as a “hoax,” while Nikki Haley brags about helping the US withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Ron DeSantis similarly dismisses the climate crisis as “the politicization of the weather”.

The DNC national press secretary, Sarafina Chitika, said of the ad:

Ahead of the first nominating contest for the most extreme Republican presidential field America has ever seen, where denying the threat of climate change has been the party line for the GOP, this campus campaign kicks off the DNC’s early work to emphasize how the MAGA [’Make America Great Again’] agenda would be a disaster for generations to come.

How will Iowa shape the 2024 US election?

Iowa winners don’t always go on to be nominees – or presidents.

Among the Democrats, the last winner of a competitive Iowa caucus was Pete Buttigieg, then the little-known mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He ended up endorsing Joe Biden, his reward a cabinet post. Before that, in 2008, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton narrowly in Iowa and went on to the White House. In 2004, John Kerry beat John Edwards and won the nomination but lost the general election. In 2000, Al Gore won Iowa and the nomination but lost the White House to George W Bush.

Of late, fewer Republicans have won Iowa and the nomination. In 2016, Ted Cruz lost the nomination to Trump. In 2012, Rick Santorum won Iowa but lost the nomination to Mitt Romney. In 2008, Mike Huckabee beat Romney but John McCain, fourth in Iowa, became the nominee. In 2000, George W Bush – a rare candidate with appeal both to evangelicals and moderates – was a clear winner on his way to the White House.

So losers in Iowa can very much go on to win the race elsewhere. As Tom Beaumont of the Associated Press explains, for Iowa Republicans this year:

Donald Trump remains the dominant frontrunner [and] the race is essentially for second place. Nikki Haley is in the race for second place in Iowa. Should Haley beat Ron DeSantis, that would almost certainly signal the end of the DeSantis campaign and provide a lift to Haley, who is stronger than any other [non-Trump] candidate in New Hampshire.

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

Why does Iowa get to go first?

“Iowa got its spot by historical accident,” the New York Times puts it.

Responding to a previous political fiasco, the protest-racked Chicago convention of 1968, Democrats wanted to give voters more of a say than party insiders in picking a nominee. In 1972, Iowa Democrats happened to schedule the first such contest. Four years later, Iowa Republicans did the same, while Jimmy Carter came from nowhere to win the Democratic caucus, the nomination and the keys to the White House.

“The power of going first thus clearly demonstrated,” the Times said, “the Iowa legislature passed a law requiring the state to continue scheduling its caucuses before any others.”

Is Iowa the right state to vote first?

Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status has long been questioned, given that it – like New Hampshire – is predominantly rural and white in a country trending ever more urban and demographically mixed.

On the flip side, David Yepsen offers a historical nugget that points to a place in the tapestry of US life – “Caucus is thought to be a Native American term, Algonquin for meeting of tribal leaders” – and even Iowa is changing: white children, for example, are now in a clear minority in Des Moines public schools.

If they were running a traditional caucus, the lack of diversity would be an issue for Democrats. But they aren’t, because of the mess last time and because of concerns about diversity. They now kick off with South Carolina, where Black voters saved Joe Biden in 2020.

For the Republicans, the question of whiteness is less of an (internal) problem. Heavily influenced by evangelical Christians, the GOP’s Iowa caucuses offer a reasonable indicator of the temperature inside the party. Eight years ago, the last time the GOP caucuses were competitive, the Texas senator Ted Cruz courted evangelicals and won. This year, a key endorsement of Ron DeSantis notwithstanding, Donald Trump seems to have the evangelical vote sewn up.

Explainer: What are the Iowa caucuses?

Martin Pengelly

Martin Pengelly

The 2024 US presidential election begins in earnest in Iowa on Monday, as Republicans in the midwestern state stage their caucuses, events through which their preferred nominee is selected. The process is hallowed but arcane. Here’s an attempt to explain.

What is a caucus?

Merriam-Webster, “America’s Most Trusted Dictionary”, defines a caucus thus:

A closed meeting of a group of persons belonging to the same political party or faction usually to select candidates or to decide on policy.

David Yepsen, a doyen of Iowa political journalism, boils it down:

A caucus – it’s a neighbourhood meeting.

And as Tom Beaumont of the Associated Press explains, more than 1,600 such meetings will take place on Monday, “one for every precinct in the state”.

Either which way, it’s not a primary, the straight-vote contest held by most states, starting in New Hampshire next week.

How does a caucus work?

In Iowa, Republican and Democratic caucuses work differently. Now, after chaos and confusion in 2020, Democrats have made changes: they will meet on caucus day and conduct political business, but their choice for president will be made by mail and announced later.

Republicans are going ahead as usual. That means participants will gather in each precinct – usually a school, community center or similar venue – at 7pm local time (8pm ET) on Monday.

Eligible voters, who must be registered Republicans, check in to the caucus and then start discussing candidates and issues with their neighbors. As Beaumont said, some also “stand up and speak on behalf of the candidates”. Within an hour or so, the caucusgoers write their choice of candidate on a slip of paper and hand it to the chair of the caucus, who then tallies the votes and submits them to the state party. The state party counts and releases the results, usually within a few hours.

Each precinct is then assigned a number of delegates based on the results. Ultimately, 40 delegates from Iowa will go to the Republican national convention, where the presidential nominee for the party is chosen.

In terms of the presidential race, the person with the most votes “wins” Iowa. In practice, delegates to a state convention are awarded on a proportionate basis, so everyone “wins” – in a way.

David Smith

David Smith

A cold coming we had of it. Icy winds blow across the plains, numbing the face and cutting to the bone. Stranded cars and tractor trailers lie abandoned at the side of highways. Snow is piled high on the side of every road in the state capital, where giant icicles hang off buildings. Candidates’ yard signs and children’s playgrounds have been enveloped by a white blanket.

Welcome to Iowa, often described as the centre of the political universe at this stage of the US electoral cycle, but currently feeling more like the outer reaches of our solar system.

It is here, amid wind chills of around -40F (-40C), that Monday will witness the dawn of the 2024 presidential election, the first since the insurrection of 6 January 2021, when US democracy itself hung by a thread.

The brutal weather has proved timely for reporters in need of something to talk about ahead of some particularly anti-climactic Iowa caucuses. Democrats are not actively engaged this time, while the Republican race has never been such a foregone conclusion: Donald Trump in an avalanche.

The only suspenseful questions on what is expected to be the coldest caucus night ever are: will Trump exceed 50% of the vote and will Nikki Haley, a former US ambassador to the UN, eclipse the one-time rising star Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida?

Read our Washington DC bureau chief David Smith’s full report from Des Moines, Iowa: In deep Iowa snow, Trump expected to win caucuses in an avalanche

Chris Stein

Chris Stein

We’re still hours away from the 7pm CT start of the caucuses here in Des Moines, but Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign has started their day off by releasing a new television ad dinging Donald Trump.

The spot makes light of his predictions that he will win the first state to vote in the Republican primary process by 60% — which would be the biggest-ever win for a non-incumbent Republican. Haley’s campaign wrote:

Sixty points? The latest Des Moines Register/NBC News poll shows Trump with a lead of less than half his prediction and the kick-off to a two-person race between Nikki Haley and Trump.

Here’s the ad:

Nikki Haley expressed confidence that Iowans would not be deterred from the cold weather and turn out and caucus for her today.

Haley, in an interview with on Fox and Friends this morning, said she was “determined to be out there in the snow until the very last second, trying to earn every vote”.

Citing a recent poll that found her beating Joe Biden in a head-to-head match by 17 points, Haley said she would have a “double digit mandate going into DC” to make sure “we get our economy back under control, reduce inflation, get our kids reading again, securing our borders once and for all.”

Former South Carolina Governor and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley campaigns in Ames, Iowa, on Sunday.
Former South Carolina Governor and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley campaigns in Ames, Iowa, on Sunday. Photograph: Alex Wroblewski/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

On the eve of the caucuses, Donald Trump predicted he would set a modern-day record for an Iowa Republican caucus with a margin-of-victory exceeding the nearly 13 percentage points that Bob Dole earned in 1988.

He also sought to downplay expectations that he would earn as much as 50% of the total vote.

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Trump, Haley, DeSantis in big test in freezing Iowa

Joan E Greve

Joan E Greve

Iowa Republicans will brave brutally cold temperatures on Monday evening to participate in the state’s presidential caucuses, as Donald Trump remains the clear frontrunner in the race for his party’s nomination.

The final results will depend on turnout, which could be acutely impacted by the weather. After a blizzard swept through Iowa on Friday, many roads remained covered in snow as temperatures dropped well below freezing.

Trump acknowledged on Saturday that he was concerned about the weather affecting caucus turnout but expressed confidence in his supporters’ dedication.

“It’s going to be cold. It’s not going to be pleasant,” DeSantis said at a campaign event in West Des Moines on Saturday.

If you’re willing to brave the elements and be there for the couple hours that you have to be there, if you’re willing to do that and you’re willing to fight for me on Monday night, then as president I’ll be fighting for you for the next eight years.

Even as the National Weather Service warned of “life-threatening” cold, Iowa voters largely shrugged off questions about how they would reach their caucus sites.

“People in the country live like this all the time,” said Abbey Sindt, a caucus-goer who attended Haley’s town hall in Ames on Sunday. “So it’s really not that big of a deal, in my opinion.”

Max Richardson, who also attended the town hall, agreed with Sindt, saying,

Everyone’s shoveled out. Everyone’s getting the ice melt down. It’s just a question of, can you get the car there?

A supporter of former Donald Trump places a placard in a pile of snow as he braves the below zero temperatures to attend a rally in Indianola, Iowa.
A supporter of former Donald Trump places a placard in a pile of snow as he braves the below zero temperatures to attend a rally in Indianola, Iowa. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

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