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Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Voters braved sub-zero temperatures on Monday to initiate the Republican presidential nomination race with the Iowa caucuses, marking the first significant challenge for former President Donald Trump’s commanding lead in polls.

As he seeks to become the Republican nominee against President Joe Biden in November, Trump faces adverse weather conditions, with blizzards and a potential wind chill of -26 degrees Fahrenheit (-32 degrees Celsius) forecasted in the Midwestern state.

Despite Trump’s apparent strength, his leading rivals, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, were compelled to cancel appearances in the final stretch, adding intrigue to an already uncertain campaign season. Trump, who canceled three weekend rallies, is set to hold a campaign event on Sunday in Indianola, just south of Des Moines. However, the ex-president faces legal challenges, having been indicted four times since his last candidacy, and is preparing for the potential collapse of his business empire in a civil fraud trial in New York.

Political analyst Alex Avetoom suggests that if DeSantis’s ground effort, combined with a recent surge by Haley, can reduce Trump’s support below 50 percent, it would be a meaningful sign of vulnerability. However, Avetoom emphasizes that this scenario depends on the rest of the field consolidating behind one anti-Trump candidate.

The Iowa race, though dominated by Trump in polls, exhibits some shifts with a new NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll placing him at 48 percent among likely caucus-goers. Haley surged into second place with 20 percent, while DeSantis trails at 16 percent. Despite the frigid conditions, DeSantis remains optimistic about his motivated supporters turning out in sufficient numbers.

Iowa, known for being an unreliable predictor of eventual nominees, holds crucial significance in winnowing the field and acts as a springboard for subsequent battlegrounds. While Trump has built an impressive network of “precinct captains,” DeSantis has emphasized his extensive ground game, having visited all 99 counties in the state.

A strong performance for Trump on Monday, aiming for 60 percent or more of the vote, could solidify his position. Nevertheless, the Republican primary also features low-polling candidates, including biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who aspires for a third-place finish in Iowa. Meanwhile, Iowa’s Democrats, voting by mail from January to March, are expected to favor President Joe Biden over competitors Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips.

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