As Republican voters go to the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the indicted former President is as popular as ever with 51% of the vote. De Santis and Haley were left fighting for the scraps taking home just 21.2% and 19.1% of the vote.

The Iowa caucuses mark the beginning of the presidential primaries for the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election. The caucuses involve registered party members in the state of Iowa voting for who they want to represent their respective party in the upcoming Presidential elections. Both parties run separate caucuses at the same time, however, the Iowa caucuses results are more noteworthy for Republicans as Iowa is a red state. Every election cycle, the Iowa caucus is a critical step in the battle for the Republican nomination, as it gives candidates a chance to capitalise on positive media coverage and momentum from a good result in the polls.

Despite temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit (-25C), Trump managed to get his supporters out in their droves across the 1,670 precincts around Iowa in which Republicans could vote. In one of the coldest Iowa caucuses in history, Trump ran away with the Republican caucus in Iowa, winning 51% of the vote.

His closest opponent, Florida Governor Ron De Santis, whom Trump had previously nicknamed ‘Ron De Sanctimonious’ earned 21.2% of the vote. Finishing third was former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley with 19.1%. Trump has previously accused Haley of a mortal sin amongst Republican voters, accusing her of being a ‘RINO’ (Republican In Name Only). This name is usually applied to less hardcore conservative Republicans who are seen to be a soft touch and closer ideologically to Democrats.

Donald Trump – 51 per cent
Ron De Santis – 21.2 per cent
Nikki Haley – 19.1 per cent

New Hampshire
Donald Trump – 54.3 per cent
Nikki Haley – 43.2 per cent

Soon after the Iowa results were announced, Governor De Santis announced his retirement from the Presidential race, wholeheartedly endorsing Trump, who had for the previous year lampooned ‘De Sanctimonious’ at every turn. At one point Trump claimed that the Florida Governor had begged him ‘on his knees’ for his endorsement for Governor in 2018. In trademark Trump style, the former president revealed he had decommissioned his nickname for De Santis following his victory, now referring to him as “a really terrific person”.

While celebrating his successful polling result, Trump donned a specially-released version of his ‘Make American Great Again’ hat, this time a white cap emblazoned with ‘TRUMP CAUCUS CAPTAIN’ in his signature Trump Tower-gold.

Nikki Haley has remained in the race after Iowa, battling on in the state of New Hampshire, where her campaign has long attempted to plant a flag, hosting town hall events up and down the state. While she fared better there than in Iowa, she was unable to seriously assuage the popularity of Trump in the notorious swing state.

Trump’s tendencies towards lower taxation could have played a role in his popularity – the state’s motto famously is ‘Live Free or Die’, a firm repudiation against taxation and state interference in citizens’ affairs. Haley’s fate will likely be determined on the most important day of Primaries: Super Tuesday on March 5th, the day when 16 states hold their elections. If she fails to rein in Trump’s lead again, her legitimacy as a serious contender will be shaken.

This trend of Trump’s popularity bodes well for him currently, however, large percentage leads early on can lead to fewer voters feeling the need to show up and support him later on in the primaries. The latest YouGov poll, published in The Economist, has Trump one percentage point ahead of Biden in the overall race for the White House.

Right now, Trump can be confident that he will have a large base of loyal followers that will come to his aid when it matters in the overall Presidential race against the incumbent President. Mr Trump has thus far managed to weather every storm – this is a man with 91 criminal charges to his name currently – for many of his voters, the former president can do no wrong. Any charges brought against him are seen as partisan attempts by the Democrats to bring him down and to silence him; further entrenching the beliefs and confirmation biases of his followers that Washington D.C is a ‘corrupt swamp’ (to use Trumpian parlance).

We shall have to wait and see if the coming months continue to be as favourable to Trump or whether voters would prefer to extend President Biden’s stay at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for another 4 years.

Eoin Gilligan – Contributor