Battle for Second Place in Iowa Intensifies: Ron DeSantis vs. Nikki Haley

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  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 10/31/2023
On January 15, the state hosting the first Republican presidential nominating contest in 2024 will witness a highly competitive race for second place. The state of Iowa presents a favorable outlook for former President Donald Trump's chances of winning. However, it is worth noting that his opponents often highlight the fact that the Iowa caucuses are notorious for experiencing significant fluctuations in support as the campaign nears its end.

In addition to the potential significance of placing first in the Iowa caucuses, historical trends indicate that candidates who come in second or third can still maintain their relevance in the race. This is particularly relevant as the focus shifts to the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire. Known for its more independent-leaning electorate, New Hampshire has a tradition of overturning the outcome of the Iowa caucuses.

In recent days, there has been a noticeable increase in competition for the second-place position in Iowa. This heightened rivalry is particularly evident between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. The ongoing division among the non-Trump vote has played a significant role in maintaining the former president's advantage.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are individuals who have been lagging behind in their respective pursuits. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who made the announcement on Saturday that he is withdrawing from the race, did not succeed in leaving a significant impact in Iowa.

According to a recent Iowa poll released on Monday, it was found that Donald Trump has garnered the support of 43% of likely GOP caucus attendees. Following behind is DeSantis and Haley, both with a 16% share of the votes. DeSantis has experienced a decline of 3 percentage points since August, while Haley has seen a significant increase of 10 points. Scott's percentage stood at 7%, while Ramaswamy and Christie both held a 4% share. The percentage of support for Pence has experienced a decline, dropping from 6% in August to 2%.

The Des Moines Register conducts a highly anticipated survey in the state, which is regarded as the most closely monitored poll. This survey has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points. NBC News and Mediacom, which happens to be Iowa's largest cable provider, have also taken on the role of sponsors.

According to Craig Robinson, a former Republican Party political director in Iowa, the current situation can be likened to shuffling the bottom of a deck of cards. Despite this action, it is important to note that the overall dynamics of the race have remained unchanged. When considering the current political landscape, it becomes evident that there is a lack of viable contenders who are capable of surpassing Donald Trump in the upcoming election.

According to Rich Schwarm, a former Iowa GOP state chairman, there is a prevailing belief among many individuals that Donald Trump is likely to secure a comfortable victory in the upcoming election. The primary concern then becomes which candidate will be able to secure the second position and whether they can significantly reduce the margin of Trump's lead in order to make the race more competitive in New Hampshire.

DeSantis and Scott have strategically focused their efforts on Iowa, recognizing that a placement outside the top three would likely result in a decline in their support. Haley has effectively handled her expectations in Iowa and has successfully allocated her time and financial resources between Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, which is known for hosting the first primary in the South.

There are certain high-value donors who are seeking an alternative to Donald Trump. They have put forth a theory that Nikki Haley, due to her improved standing in both state and national polls after delivering two impressive debate performances, could potentially emerge as his final significant opponent. The candidate's supporters are optimistic that she will surpass expectations in Iowa, demonstrate a strong momentum in New Hampshire, and ultimately emerge victorious in her home state.

Given Donald Trump's significant lead in the polls, it is understandable that some individuals may view their hopes and desires as the basis for their belief. However, as she continues to grow in power, she has become the target of escalating attacks from both DeSantis and Trump. In fact, Trump's campaign went so far as to send a birdcage and bird food to her hotel room, a day after he publicly referred to her as "Bird Brain." 

There are individuals who support Haley and oppose Trump, and they remain optimistic that the legal challenges faced by the former president, which may involve multiple criminal trials in 2024, will eventually have consequences for him. These consequences could potentially result in him being removed from the race. The indictments against Trump have resulted in a significant number of GOP voters showing support for him.

The former president has not made any attempts to control or regulate his expectations in Iowa. During a Sunday afternoon appearance at a historic theater, Trump confidently declared that on Monday, Jan. 15, his campaign would emerge victorious in the Iowa caucuses. This statement was made as the transition from fall to winter was underway.

The level of braggadociousness exhibited by Trump is not out of the ordinary for him. However, if he does not achieve a significant victory in Iowa, it could potentially lead to concerns among GOP voters in other states.

During the rally, President Trump made a brief criticism of Haley, expressing his opinion that she is "highly overrated." Additionally, he reiterated his previous reference to her as "Bird Brain." The majority of the criticism was directed towards DeSantis, as the speaker likened the governor and his campaign to a wounded bird descending rapidly from the sky.

According to aides, it has been reported that President Trump is highly motivated to secure a victory in the Iowa caucuses. This is noteworthy because he was unable to achieve this feat during the 2016 election cycle, as he was outperformed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. In the final two months leading up to the election, it is anticipated that he will be making frequent visits to Iowa. Furthermore, his campaign has made notable improvements in terms of organization within the state, particularly with regards to mobilizing voters, compared to the previous election cycle in 2016.

On Sunday, there was a moment of initial confusion for Trump regarding his location. He mistakenly referred to Sioux Falls, a city located approximately 80 miles north in South Dakota, before realizing his error and correcting himself a few minutes later. The majority of the audience consisted of residents from the nearby states of South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska, who unfortunately will not have the opportunity to partake in the caucuses.

Ramaswamy, much like Trump, has made bold predictions regarding the outcome of the Iowa election, expressing confidence in securing an outright victory or a result that is very close to it.

Jason Palmer, a lawyer, recently attended a Ramaswamy event in Des Moines. During the event, an open bar was available for attendees. Palmer expressed his ongoing search for a GOP candidate due to concerns about Donald Trump's potential governing abilities, should he be elected.

The individual is currently faced with a decision between three potential candidates: Ramaswamy, Haley, and DeSantis. However, they hold the belief that Trump will likely secure the nomination, unless unforeseen circumstances arise from ongoing criminal trials that would disqualify him from the race.

Cindy Donohue Greer, a 65-year-old controller for an amusement park in Iowa, made a lengthy journey of over two hours through snowy roads to attend a rally held by Donald Trump. This marked her first opportunity to witness the former president in person. Since 2016, she has been providing support to him.

According to Greer, she confidently declared her support for Trump in the caucuses without considering any of the other GOP candidates. She also expressed her belief that if Trump were to secure another term in the White House, he would continue to exhibit his characteristic unconventional approach. According to her statement, he will be free to act without any constraints imposed by concerns related to his re-election.

When questioned about her perspective on the race in Iowa, specifically regarding the contenders for second place after Donald Trump, Greer expressed her belief that this has been the case for several months.


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