Trump urges supporters to brave winter storms and vote for him in Iowa caucuses

Voting is set to begin Monday night in Iowa as former President Donald Trump eyes a victory that would send a resounding message that nothing can slow his march toward the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination.

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The Iowa caucuses, which are the opening contest in the months-long Republican presidential primary process, begin at 8pm EST. Caucus participants will gather inside more than 1,500 schools, churches and community centres to debate their options, in some cases for hours, before casting secret ballots.

On Sunday night, Trump implored his supporters to brave frigid temperatures for the vote and deliver him a decisive victory in the caucuses, saying their vote would help bring to Washington the retribution he has repeatedly promised if he returns to the White House.

At a rally in Indianola, Trump said his supporters could fight back against his political enemies, claiming that the four indictments he faces were driven by politics and renewing his false claims about the 2020 election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

“These caucuses are your personal chance to score the ultimate victory over all of the liars, cheaters, thugs, perverts, frauds, crooks, freaks, creeps and other quite nice people,” Trump told the audience. “The Washington swamp has done everything in its power to take away your voice. But tomorrow is your time to turn on them and to say and speak your mind and to vote.”

While Trump projects confidence, his onetime chief rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is fighting for his political survival in a make-or-break race for second place. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the only woman in the race, stands in DeSantis’ way. The two have competed aggressively in recent weeks to emerge as the clear alternative to the former president, who has alienated many Americans and could end up being a convicted felon by year’s end.

Polls suggest Trump enters the day with a massive lead in Iowa as Haley and DeSantis duel for a distant second. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson are also on the ballot, as is former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who suspended his campaign last week.

With the coldest temperatures in caucus history expected and dangerous travel conditions in virtually every corner of the rural state, the campaigns are bracing for a low-turnout contest that will test the strength of their support and their organisational muscle. The final result will serve as a powerful signal for the rest of the nomination fight to determine who will face Democratic President Joe Biden in the November general election.

After Iowa, the Republican primary shifts to New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina over the coming weeks before moving into the rest of the country this spring. The ultimate nominee won’t be confirmed until the party’s national convention in July, but with big wins in the opening contests, Trump will be difficult to stop.

Trump lost to Biden in 2020, which culminated in his supporters carrying out a deadly attacks on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.

In total today, he faces 91 felony charges across four criminal cases, including two indictments for his efforts to overturn the election and a third indictment for keeping classified documents in his Florida home.

In recent weeks, Trump has increasingly echoed authoritarian leaders and framed his campaign as one of retribution. He has spoken openly about using the power of government to pursue his political enemies. 

The final Des Moines Register/NBC News poll before the caucuses found Trump maintaining a formidable lead, supported by nearly half of likely caucus-goers, compared with 20% for Haley and 16% for DeSantis. Haley, the former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor, and DeSantis, the Florida governor, remain locked in a close battle for second. Trump is also viewed more favourably than the other top contenders by likely caucus-goers, at 69% compared with 58% for DeSantis and just 48% for Haley.

On the eve of the caucuses, Trump predicted he would set a modern-day record for an Iowa Republican caucus with a margin-of-victory exceeding the nearly 13 percentage points that Bob Dole earned in 1988. He also sought to downplay expectations that he would earn as much as 50% of the total vote.

Whether he hits that number or not, his critics note that roughly half of the state’s Republican voters will likely vote for someone not named Trump.


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