Final spurt: US Republican primary – race for second place

The Republicans in Iowa are kicking off the primary elections today. There are currently extreme temperatures in the US state. That could harm Trump, the favorite.

In the US election campaign for the Republicans’ first vote on their presidential candidate, the final spurt has begun in the state of Iowa amid arctic temperatures and icy winds. Polls see former US President Donald Trump well ahead.

What will be particularly exciting is the question of how well Trump actually does in the evening elections (local time) – and who will secure second place. The former US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has caught up and could overtake Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

A winter storm affected the election campaign over the weekend. The weather service warned of “life-threatening” cold temperatures of up to minus 28 degrees. That could affect voter turnout.

Iowa marks the beginning of an election year in the USA

In the USA, it is not the party leadership but the base that chooses its candidate for the presidential election. The primary election voting process is complex and varies from state to state. The Republicans are now starting things off in Iowa. The small state in the Midwest is numerically of little importance for the candidate selection. But those who do well here can count on a tailwind in future votes. The decision is not made at polling stations, but at small party meetings, so-called caucuses. They take place in the evenings – in very different places such as churches or community halls.

Haley and DeSantis are fighting for second place

According to a survey by the regional newspaper “Des Moines Register” and other media, Trump is at 48 percent – well ahead of his competitors; another survey saw Trump at 55 percent. Haley, who is considered somewhat more moderate, comes in second with 20 percent. That is four percentage points more than in December. DeSantis slipped to third place with 16 percent. He was once considered Trump’s biggest competitor in the race for the presidential nomination. But in recent months he has lost support and remained conspicuously pale in TV duels. He had particularly focused on Iowa during the campaign – if he only came in third place there, it would be a disastrous start to the election year for him.

At the weekend he was combative and tried to downplay the poor poll numbers. “I’ve learned that it’s good to be an outsider. (…) I prefer it when people lower their expectations of us. That way I can work better,” he said on US television. When asked about his competitor Trump, the 45-year-old replied: “The first time he didn’t keep the most important promises.”

It’s not just about winning

For Trump, however, in Iowa it is about meeting the high expectations placed on him. It cannot be assumed that his victory will be contested in the vote there. The former president is facing four criminal charges – including because of his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But that hasn’t changed the Republican’s popularity in his party so far. At that time, Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden. To this day he still doesn’t recognize his defeat and spreads the lie about election fraud.

But in the USA people are now looking closely at how well he will actually do in Iowa in the end. The extreme winter weather could thwart his plans. It is possible that his supporters assume that their favorite will win comfortably anyway – and therefore simply stay at home. That would benefit Haley and DeSantis. On the other hand, Trump supporters are considered particularly loyal.

Extreme cold has a firm grip on Iowa

Trump initially canceled his campaign appointments because of the winter storm – but then appeared again. Haley and DeSantis also adjusted their schedules, but continued to travel in Iowa despite the cold and slippery roads. The weather caused complete chaos, especially on Friday. Almost every flight to the capital Des Moines was canceled. Numerous journalists who wanted to travel to the state for the primaries were also stranded at the airport. It could be the coldest primary in Iowa history.

Haley urged her followers to brave the weather and vote: “Iowa, you have a job to do tomorrow. Bring your ID, dress in layers and let’s go!” The 51-year-old former governor of the US state of South Carolina began her election campaign last February – and was polling in the low single digits at the time. She fought her way forward in the past few months and scored particularly well in the Republicans’ TV duels, which Trump, however, stayed away from. However, Haley is afraid to publicly renounce Trump. Observers therefore assume that she could eventually become Trump’s candidate for vice president.

For the Democrats, the primary election procedure is a little different this year. The race is also considered a foregone conclusion. Incumbent Biden wants to move into the White House again for his party after the presidential election on November 5th. The 81-year-old has no serious competition in his party.