Ron DeSantis Claws His Way Back To Second-Place Finish In Iowa Caucuses

The results of the first nominating contest at least temporarily blunt Nikki Haley’s recent surge in polling. She finished third, with Trump winning.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa ― Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ touted get-out-the-vote organization came through for him on an Arctic-cold Iowa caucus night Monday, apparently giving him a narrow second-place finish after recent polls showed him falling to third.

“They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us,” DeSantis said in brief remarks from his election night party, adding that the finish meant he would push forward into New Hampshire. “We got our ticket punched out of Iowa.”

Coup-attempting former President Donald Trump, as expected, won the first contest in the 2024 GOP nominating process with about half of all votes cast, with Nikki Haley coming in third, 2 percentage points behind DeSantis.

The former South Carolina governor had been surging in polls in the past two months, particularly in New Hampshire, which holds its primary a week from Tuesday. The final pre-caucus Iowa poll by the Des Moines Register, widely respected for its accuracy, had Haley narrowly beating out DeSantis for second, and it’s unclear what the third place result will mean for her candidacy going forward.

In her remarks to a few hundred supporters gathered at a hotel just three miles from DeSantis’ gathering, Haley spoke as if she had effectively forced DeSantis out of the race.

“When you look at how we’re doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina and beyond, I can safely say that tonight, Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race,” she said, and then told her crowd she would be flying out Monday night. “I love you Iowa, but we’re on to New Hampshire.”

Trump is facing four separate criminal prosecutions, two for his attempt to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election by using the threat of violence, and then actual violence on Jan. 6, 2021, to intimidate Congress and his own vice president into overturning the results. A four-count federal indictment is set to start trial in March, with state charges in Georgia set for trial later this year.

Trump was also indicted by a federal grand jury in South Florida for refusing to turn over secret documents he took with him from the White House to his Palm Beach country club. New York State prosecutors separately have charged him with falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 hush money payment to a porn star just ahead of the 2016 election.

Despite all these criminal charges, the most serious of which could send Trump to prison for decades, Trump remains the polling front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination. Most of his rivals, including both Haley and DeSantis, chose not to highlight Trump’s behavior leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, or the legal consequences. DeSantis, in fact, claimed that prosecutors deliberately charged Trump with so many crimes to help him win the nomination by generating sympathy for him among GOP primary voters.

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