About Last Night: Trump Wins Iowa

Andrew Donaldson
3 min readJan 16, 2024
Screengrab from FoxNews coverage of Iowa Caucuses (NewsCorp)

Years worth of narrative building, hundreds of millions of dollars, countless hours of media time, massively manned and funded campaign operations, and all the bombast and trappings of promising presidential campaigns built up to the first counting of votes, and for everyone not named Donald Trump all was lost 31 minutes into the process. Trump didn’t just win Iowa, he dominated without even really trying.

Des Moines Register:

Trump and his campaign effectively turned the traditional Iowa Caucus playbook on its head, continuing to aim to define the Republican Party and election cycle on his own terms.

He spurned some of the most prominent conservative leaders in the state, attacking Gov. Kim Reynolds for remaining neutral early in the race and then endorsing DeSantis, soon followed by Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats. Trump dismissed the endorsements as inconsequential, even as he attacked Reynolds for disloyalty.

He largely shrugged off the retail politicking made famous by the caucuses, making just 22 scheduled public visits the entire cycle, according to the Des Moines Register’s Candidate Tracker. Almost all of them were campaign-organized rallies in population centers, while his challengers shook hands at Pizza Ranches and visited as many counties as possible.

At all but a few “cattle call” events, where prominent organizations or elected officials invite the entire slate of candidates, Trump was absent.

And pressed on key conservative issues like abortion, Trump toed the line on policy in ways that frustrated evangelical leaders, calling a six-week abortion ban like the one passed in Iowa a “horrible thing” and insisting that Republicans who took a hard-line approach to the issue would lose elections.

None of it appeared to matter.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finished a distant second 30 pts behind Trump. After months of crowing about their forthcoming historic ground game in Iowa that had by some reports more than $100m price tag, a campaign full of former Ted Cruz operatives did seven points worse than TrusTed managed. Brutal.

Nikki Haley finished third, two points behind DeSantis, and bizarrely declared afterwards that Iowa had made the GOP primary a…

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Andrew Donaldson

Writer. Mountaineer diaspora. Veteran. Managing Editor @ordinarytimemag on culture & politics, food writing @yonderandhome, Host @heardtellshow & other media