For something like a year I’ve been predicting that Donald Trump is absolutely positively going to be the 2024 nominee. I was predicting that back when a lot of people really thought that Ron DeSantis was going to at least give Trump a run for his money. I don’t make confident predictions unless I’m certain there’s little chance of being wrong. But I must tell you that this result simply isn’t the victory most reporting makes it out to be.
The Republican version of the Iowa caucus is simply a vote, carried out by less formal means. Each participant writes down a name and that gets counted — no real caucusing. The final result shows Trump getting 51% of that vote.
That is not just a plurality win, the metric customarily used to judge this contest. It’s actually an absolute majority. Barely. (DeSantis has 21.2% and Haley 19.1%.) But everyone now recognizes that Trump is running as the de facto incumbent. Certainly he’s running as the universally recognized leader of the GOP. And yet he has only barely managed a majority in a state which — unlike, say, New Hampshire — is pretty tailor-made for his politics. To put that characterization into context, while Iowa is today is a fairly red state, it has long had a reputation as a state which has a very liberal Democratic Party and a very conservative GOP. The Iowa GOP caucus electorate especially is made up of a high percentage of conservative evangelical voters. It’s overwhelmingly rural. By any fair measure, 51% of those voters is underwhelming.