Is Donald Trump the inevitable candidate? That's the question circulating within the United States Republican Party as the Iowa caucuses begin, which coincides with a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King. In Iowa, the cold keeps people indoors most of the day. Last week's heavy snowfall still partially covers the election posters. Tens of thousands of citizens are preparing to brave temperatures below 20 degrees below zero this Monday to vote for their favorite candidate at hundreds of schools, sports centers, community centers, churches and other venues. Trump's victory is taken for granted. It remains to be seen how big the lead is and who will come in second, Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley.
Trump is leading the polls across the country by a wide margin, but former UN ambassador and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley believes the battle for the nomination is not yet decided. After running in Iowa, a conservative and religious state that doesn't particularly favor her, Haley has her sights set on New Hampshire, where the primary is next Tuesday, and her prospects are good. She wants to consolidate herself there and ensure that the Republican primaries are perceived as a matter of two: Trump and her. Nevertheless, the former president's lead over the Republican base appears almost insurmountable.
Not just among the bases. Trump has gained support among the Republican Party's congressmen and, whether out of fear or conviction, already had more than half of all Republican senators and representatives this weekend. One of those who allowed him to overcome the hurdle was Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Trump's opponent in the 2016 primaries and now committed to his cause. He chose him over his state's governor, Ron DeSantis, which certainly hurt him.
For Haley, her promotion is a win. While DeSantis has fallen in the polls, she has continued to improve. The calendar favors him. The next fight is in New Hampshire, a small state but more urban, moderate and educated than Iowa. The governor, the popular Chris Sununu, has offered all his support to Trump. Haley also found the gift of retirement from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who drew sympathy in New Hampshire. Since he was the only openly anti-Trump candidate, Haley wants to attract a large portion of his voters.
Leave the negativity behind
This Monday, candidates rushed to the last minute in the campaign, focusing their final efforts on Des Moines, the state's capital and most populous city. Haley has insisted in her recent campaign messages that she presents herself as a “leader of a new generation that leaves behind negativity and baggage and focuses on the solutions of the future,” an alternative to the “chaos” that plagues Trump. “We cannot defeat the chaos of the Democrats with the chaos of the Republicans,” he emphasizes again and again.
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The day has also come with an ad bombardment on local television, mostly negative ads from Haley against DeSantis and vice versa. Once again, Trump is winning this battle between his two pursuers.
The former president has spent most of the day on the phone with his caucus captains, delegates of sorts to the various meetings being held this afternoon for voting. Unlike the previous Democratic factions (with voting by show of hands, forming groups and eliminating the candidates with the least support), the Republicans vote with ballot papers and the vote is secret.
Trump was also active this Monday, attacking his rivals through his social network Truth. In it, he again used his offensive nickname “Knucklehead” against Haley and called her a “globalist.” He criticized Fox News for airing a poll that showed Haley was close behind him in his voting intentions in New Hampshire. Although he has also insulted DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, his continued attacks on the sole candidate show that she is the one he currently fears most.
After New Hampshire, the next stops in the Republican primaries are Nevada and South Carolina, where DeSantis also doesn't have great expectations. In both cases, Trump's advantage is clear, but South Carolina is Haley's home state, where she was governor, and she can play the local card there.
Whatever happens in these early rounds, Trump remains the clear favorite, according to the polls, but the possibility of a real alternative depends on a victory or a narrow defeat for Haley in New Hampshire, where snow and cold are also expected next week. In Iowa, bad weather has hit the caucus economy, a political and tourist attraction that serves as a source of revenue for the state every four years.
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