Haley, DeSantis try to keep Trump close in Iowa with caucus days away

DES MOINES, Iowa – Donald Trump is so far ahead in polling for Monday’s Iowa caucus that supporters of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley no longer hope that their candidate can pull off an unlikely win — but that they keep the final margin respectable.

As of noon Friday, the RealClearPolitics polling average showed Trump with 53% support in the Hawkeye State, followed distantly by Haley at 17.8% and DeSantis at 15.5%.

Dating back to 1972, no Republican non-president has won a contested Iowa caucus with more than 50% support or by more than 12.8 percentage points, the margin by which Bob Dole defeated Pat Robertson in 1988.

If the polls are correct, the 77-year-old Trump is on course to blow those benchmarks away.

“The expectations that have been set is that Donald Trump is going to win over 50% of the vote, and Ron DeSantis is going to win. Neither of those things can happen,” former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, an ex-2024 Republican candidate and Haley backer, told The Post after Wednesday night’s debate at Drake University.

Nikki Haley campaigns in Ankeny, Iowa, Thursday. She has focused her messaging on differentiating herself from Trump's "chaos" and DeSantis' "lies."
Nikki Haley campaigns in Ankeny, Iowa, Thursday. She has focused her messaging on differentiating herself from Trump’s “chaos” and DeSantis’ “lies.” Ron Haviv/VII/Redux

“If neither one of those things happen, then guess what? It’s a failure,” Hurd added. “That’s going to continue being momentum for Ambassador Haley going into New Hampshire.”

The former US envoy to the United Nations has said she hopes to get a “good showing” in Iowa, without specifying whether that means coming in first, second or third.

“I think [Haley] will finish up in the top three, no doubt about that,” said Iowa state Rep. Austin Harris, another Haley supporter. “I think it’s important that we gain momentum and beat expectations in Iowa and take that into New Hampshire.”

DeSantis’ camp has publicly said the Sunshine State governor is in Iowa to win Iowa, but were also in an expectation-setting mood.

Governor Ron Desantis speaks, January 11, 2024, at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association meeting.
Governor Ron Desantis speaks, January 11, 2024, at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association meeting. Ron Haviv/VII/Redux

“Ron DeSantis fights to win in every single state that he plays in. That’s the difference between him and Nikki Haley,” DeSantis spokesperson Andrew Romeo told The Post, adding that the campaign was willing to “let the chips fall where they may” on caucus night.

“The president has set sky-high expectations for himself. The way he sees it, he should win by 30 points, so I think he has a high bar to meet here,” Romeo added. “We certainly are going to be working hard and tirelessly and organizing and campaigning all the way through this stretch to do as well as we can here.”

As recently as New Year’s Eve, DeSantis had promised he would win in Iowa, ringing in 2024 by telling supporters in West Des Moines to “work hard over these next two weeks and win the Iowa caucuses.”

Iowa evangelical leader and DeSantis supporter Bob Vander Plaats predicted Thursday that the governor would still come out on top.

“We’re going to win the Iowa caucuses with your help, but we’re going to need you,” Vander Plaats told an event in Ames.

Trump’s campaign is hoping for an Iowa blowout before moving on to New Hampshire, where some polls show Haley within single digits of the former commander-in-chief. The ex-president’s team has been working on turning out a maximum number of new caucus-goers through their “10 for Trump” program.

Last weekend, Trump urged against complacency, telling supporters in Mason City to “forget polls that show we’re 35 points up. Pretend we’re one point down.”

Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told The Post that the Trump campaign has learned from their 2016 Iowa defeat, when Reed said they had been “out-hustled” by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“That’s why they put so much effort into identifying caucus captains, providing them with lists of uncommitted likely caucus attenders who are modeled as potential Trump supporters, contacting them and encouraging them to attend,” said Reed, who added that a 10-point margin would be enough for Trump to claim a blowout win.

“For DeSantis, the key is, number one, to ensure he comes in second, and number two, to make that second as close as he can,” he said, while Haley just needs to do “as well as she can possibly do” before going on to New Hampshire.


Written by SaleemBaloch

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