(The Center Square) – Former President Donald Trump is the heavy favorite to win Iowa’s Republican presidential caucuses Monday, leading his closest challengers in polls by more than 30 percentage points.
RealClearPolitics Poll Average of major polls across the country shows Trump with more than 52% support in The Hawkeye State. His closest challenger there, former South Carolina Gov. and Ambassador Nikki Haley, shows 18.2% support, a nearly 34% percentage point gap between the No. 1 and No. 2 candidates in the state. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is an even more distant third with 15.6% support.
Monday’s caucuses in Iowa – where temperatures are expected to hover just below 0 degrees and wind chills could hit minus 35 degrees or worse – are the first time voters get to weigh in during the Republican primary season.
Unlike a standard primary election where voters simply go to the polls and cast their ballots for the candidate of their choice (or in more recent years, mail in their ballots), voters at a caucus must show up in person and listen to supporters lobby for candidates before choosing sides.
A significant win by Trump in Iowa could all but deflate the candidacies of most – if not all – of the former president’s Republican opponents.
Following Monday’s caucuses, GOP voters in New Hampshire head to the polls Jan. 23 for the first-in-the-nation primary. Trump also holds a significant lead in polling there with 43.5% support, according to RealClear, but Haley has closed the gap down to about 14 percentage points with 29.3% support.
Trump leads all challengers by large amounts nationally as well. The latest The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll shows Trump with 61% support across the country, with Haley (13%) and DeSantis (12%) far behind.
Nevada follows with a Nov. 8 caucus, followed by primaries on Feb. 24 in South Carolina and Feb. 27 in Michigan (though not all delegates will be awarded on this date in Michigan; more than half will be awarded at the state convention March 2); and caucuses in Idaho March 2 and North Dakota March 4.
On Super Tuesday March 5, Republican voters from 15 states will select the candidate of their choice: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.
Trump could have the nomination locked up by then.
On Iowa, Colin Reed, a Republican strategist, former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and co-founder of South and Hill Strategies, told The Center Square: “For Trump, he needs to show a result that’s consistent with his lead in the polls or risk losing the veneer of inevitability,” Reed continued. “For DeSantis, he needs a decisive second place showing or loses a credible rationale to continue on. Nikki Haley placed more of her chips in New Hampshire so she has the least to lose and most to gain. Either way, the events in Iowa have the potential to reshuffle the deck in the eight days between the caucuses and New Hampshire primary.”
DeSantis received the coveted endorsement of Iowa’s popular Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, but that hasn’t helped him in polling there.
Trump also faces nearly 100 criminal charges across several states as well as ongoing efforts to remove him from the ballot for his role in the Jan. 6 protests at the U.S. Capitol. Translated, those challenges mean Trump’s campaign could be upended later this year and make second place in the GOP primary more important than ever.
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.