The 5 Storylines to Watch at the Iowa Caucuses

Will Trump hit 50%, for one
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2024 6:26 AM CST
The 5 Storylines That Matter at the Iowa Caucuses
A man walks past a sign that reads "Iowa Caucuses 2024" in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Today's the (extremely frigid) day: Iowa caucusgoers will come together at 8pm EST in some 1,500 locations across the state to debate their options and then cast their secret ballots. Aside from the much-discussed weather—the AP reports temps are expected to be the coldest ever recorded on a caucus night—here are the five biggest storylines to watch:

  1. Just how big will Donald Trump's margin be: Polling suggests Trump has a win in the bag, meaning the real question is whether he manages to hit 50%. If he does, "the notion that Republicans are hungry for an alternative becomes far less believable," reports NBC News. "He could head to New Hampshire with an imposing air of inevitability." If he doesn't, that could give momentum to whoever places second.

  1. And could that margin be record-setting big? The AP reports Bob Dole holds the record for the biggest margin of victory for an Iowa Republican caucus. He finished nearly 13 percentage points ahead of his rivals in 1988, a figure that Trump has predicted he will best Monday night.
  2. Who will take second? The No. 2 position, and whether it goes to Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis, is in many ways the one to watch. NBC News frames it as a "make-or-break" finish for DeSantis, as he's polling behind Haley in New Hampshire and South Carolina, two states coming down the pike. And as the BBC puts it, "If one of these two opens some daylight between the other ... it could elevate that candidate as the top alternative to Mr. Trump in the contests to come."
  3. Where will the turnout count land? The record number of Republican caucus participants was set in 2012, when 118,411 of them showed up. Some campaigns had been expecting the caucusgoer count could surge to nearly 200,000 people thanks to the caucuses aligning with a federal holiday. But the weather is proving to be a major wildcard.
  4. Have the rules of the ground game changed? Candidates have long tried to woo caucusgoers by spending plenty of time in the state, "but, like much else in the Trump-era, that old rule may be out the window," observes ABC News. While DeSantis did as has conventionally been done, visiting each of the state's 99 counties and hosting 169 events over 61 days, Trump has made only 35 appearances in 21 days. Vivek Ramaswamy, who is polling in the single digits, has held 326 events over 89 days.
(More Iowa caucuses stories.)

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