The election caravan in the USA is slowly gaining momentum. In Iowa, the first votes were tallied in the pre-primary campaign on January 15, and Trump emerges as the clear winner of this initial vote. It's not about the less than 20 delegate votes he now has on his account – he needs over 1200 delegate votes at the party convention in the summer to secure the Republican nomination. However, the public discourse and momentum are clearly in his favor. He has achieved a significantly better result than in Iowa in 2016 when he finished second to Ted Cruz, and at the same time, he has secured the best result for a non-incumbent Republican candidate in the rural state.
Was this expected? Yes, but he has lived up to expectations, defying the trend of Nikki Haley improving in polls and also overcoming extreme weather conditions that led some to fear that his supporters might stay home, assuming victory was assured. Yet, Trump and his supporters are fully euphoric, which is good news for him. Anything less than a clear victory for Trump would have been a big surprise, considering the demographic structure in Iowa: predominantly rural, mostly white, and evangelical – a textbook case of Trump territory. According to polls, around two-thirds of Republican caucus-goers also believe that the 2020 presidential election was not conducted fairly.
In his victory speech, Trump surprisingly appeared moderate, praising his fellow contenders, addressing them by their correct names, and expressing admiration. Some raised their eyebrows in surprise. Could we be witnessing a tactical shift in the campaign strategy? Is it the wolf in sheep's clothing trying to appeal to more moderate voter segments and not wanting to alienate Nikki Haley as a potential vice-presidential candidate? Trump called for party reconciliation – a cynical attempt, considering he is the one who provokes, divides, and acts against the party if it doesn't faithfully follow his line. Or was it just a weak moment in the certainty of victory? The coming weeks and months will reveal!
And what about the contenders in the primary campaign? They have all basically lost. Vivek Ramaswamy, who always presented himself as a radical Trump clone, dropped out of the race shortly after the announcement of the results. Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, managed to secure the second-place spot on the home stretch. Far behind Trump, but contrary to recent poll trends, he just edged out Nikki Haley, who will extend her campaign for some time. However, with tight campaign funds, his prospects do not look very promising. Nikki Haley, who had hoped to land in second place in Iowa and not let the gap to Trump become too large, has clearly missed both goals. She now pins her hopes on the next primaries on January 23 in New Hampshire, where, according to polls, she is not far behind Trump. This is also because the population in New Hampshire is extremely secular, somewhat atypical for the USA. Nikki Haley must make gains here; if she fails, the Republican primaries could be decided early.
In early February, the Supreme Court will address the question of whether states can remove Trump from the ballots because he participated in an uprising against the government of the USA. This could still be a game-changer, but few actually expect it