Former President Donald Trump won a smashing victory in the Iowa caucuses, the first in the nation contest for the 2024 presidential race.

The Associated Press called the race for Trump at 8:31 p.m. ET, or Iowa’s time of 7:31 p.m. CT. Fox News reported Trump had 70.2% of the vote with 1% of precincts reporting. 

With the lopsided win, Trump’s praised his vanquished GOP opponents during his victory speech, and focused on uniting the country.

“We want to come together, whether it is Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative,” Trump said.

Seeming to use the large win to look past the primary process, Trump went on to talk about President Joe Biden. “I don’t want to be overly rough on the president, but I have to say that he is the worst president that we have had in the history of our country.”

Iowa residents ventured to voting sites Monday evening in sub-zero temperatures to vote for their candidates.

In the early going, after the race was called, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared to be in at a distant second place at 15.4%. Former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley had 7.8%. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy had 6.3% with the 1% of precincts reporting. However, the tallies were expected to shift substantially.

However, as more precincts reported, Trump’s advantage dropped to a still strong 50-plus percent, while DeSantis and Haley jousted for second place hovering between 18-20%.

Ramaswamy announced he was suspending his campaign and endorsed Trump. 

“As of this moment we are going to suspend this presidential campaign,” Ramaswamy told the audience. “There is no path for me to be the next president.”

He said there has to be an “America first candidate in that White House.” 

“Earlier tonight I called Donald Trump to congratulate him on his victory. Now going forward he will have my full endorsement for the presidency,” Ramaswamy said.

Trump, the 45th president, was always the overwhelming leader in Iowa polls, leaving the big question of the night who would come in second place. Though Trump carried Iowa twice in a general election, he lost the 2016 Iowa caucus. Monday’s victory marked the first time he won a competitive GOP Iowa contest.

Candidates next head to New Hampshire where the primary is set for Jan. 23. 

The Iowa caucus is not always predictive of the eventual Republican nominee. Since 1980, two winners of competitive Iowa caucuses went on to win the GOP nomination, and one became president.

In the days leading up to the caucus, Trump gained the endorsements of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Republican presidential candidate North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, one of the first to drop out of the primary contest. Trump also received a high profile Iowa endorsement from the state attorney general, Brenna Bird. Trump also had the backing of his former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa.

DeSantis visited all 99 Iowa counties and had the backing of Gov. Kim Reynolds, as well as influential conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats, a former GOP candidate for governor and head of The Family Leader. Last week, DeSantis gained the endorsement of 50 evangelical leaders in the state. Republican Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Thomas Massie of Kentucky toured Iowa campaigning for DeSantis.

DeSantis griped that the media called the election before many Iowans voted. 
“They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us. They spent almost $50 million attacking us. No one has faced that much just through Iowa. The media was against us. They were writing our obituary months ago,” DeSantis said. “They even called the election before people even got a chance to vote. .. I can tell you because of your support in spite of all of that that they threw at us, everyone against us we have our ticket punched out of Iowa.”

Among Iowans, Haley garnered the endorsements of David Oman, who was chief of staff for former Iowa Republican Govs. Robert Ray and Terry Branstad, as well as Doug Gross, who was also Branstad’s chief of staff. Haley gained the endorsements of Americans for Prosperity and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, among others. She seemed to gain traction in polls in the closing weeks before the election. She has also polled within striking distance to Trump in New Hampshire surveys. 

Haley said, “Our campaign is the last best hope of stopping the Trump-Biden nightmare.”

“Tonight, Iowa did what Iowa always does so well. The pundits will analyze the results from every angle. We get that, but if you look at how we’re doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina and beyond, Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race,” Haley said.

Ramaswamy, an Ohio businessman, also tried to appeal to voters in the state. Ramaswamy had the backing of former Iowa Rep. Steve King. Though friendly at first, his campaign clashed with Trump’s in recent days. Last week, Ramaswamy urged Trump voters to support him because the legal system would prevent Trump from being president if he were nominated. Ramaswamy contended he was the only America First candidate who would pardon Trump. Trump responded in a Truth Social post that Ramaswamy was a “fraud” and supporting him would be a “wasted” vote.

Trump had only token opposition in the 2020 Iowa caucuses, and like the three preceding Republican presidents, easily won when he was an incumbent. 

But eight years ago, Trump lost to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Four years earlier, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum scored a surprise win over frontrunner Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who went on to be the nominee. In 2008, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the contest, but Arizona Sen. John McCain won the nomination. 

However, in 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush won Iowa, the GOP nomination, and the presidency. Likewise, in 1996, Kansas Sen. Bob Dole won Iowa, and the GOP nomination. Both Bush and Dole lost the subsequent New Hampshire primary. 

In 1988, Dole also won the Iowa caucuses, but Vice President George H. W. Bush went on to win the nomination. Eight years earlier, it was Bush who won in Iowa, before losing the bid for the nomination to former California Gov. Ronald Reagan.

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