Everything is absolutely snowy in Iowa. The thermometer in Des Moines was around -9 degrees Wednesday night, just a precursor to the cold fest that is about to arrive in the coming days. With only five days left until this rural Midwestern state opens the polls for the election year with what is expected to be the coldest of the Republican caucuses on Monday, if there is anything that looks icy it is already the state of the race in which conservatives are submitting their nominee. For the president. In this latest race to the first vote, as has been the case for months, Donald Trump is in a clear dominant position. Far, far away, are the other aspirants.
Nothing, or almost nothing, changed after Wednesday's fifth debate, this time featuring only Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. As they gushed at Drake University and in front of CNN cameras toward each other, Trump was just five miles away relaxing at a town hall hosted by Fox News.
The former president went through polite questions, while the audience took pictures with him. Among that crowd were several people wearing the white and gold baseball caps that so-called precinct captains, who speak for a candidate at each convention, trying to convince those in attendance to vote for him, will wear at Monday's caucuses. This sent a signal of the strength of his support network despite the fact that he campaigned much less in this state than his opponents.
His advantage is so exorbitant, and his strategy of ignoring these rivals has been so effective so far that Trump is betting on presenting himself as inevitable. He does speak of himself as a winner, suggesting he has thought about who his running mate would be (although his campaign later clarified that he had decided on the qualities he was looking for but not the specific person). At the televised event, he even described some of his more Trumpian and controversial recent statements. “I will not be a dictator,” he said at one point. Another said: “I won't have time for revenge.”
On the other hand, the former governor of South Carolina, the former ambassador to the United Nations, and the current CEO of Florida are locked in another fierce battle, exchanging verbal blows, and not against who their main rival is.
Both are accused of lying, and in Haley's case, she created a website dedicated to her opponent's lies, which she repeated to the point of exhaustion throughout the two-hour debate. Each has prepared lines of attack against the other, and perhaps none were more effective on Wednesday by DeSantis to accuse Haley of being a “globalist” than the statement “The ambassador may leave the United Nations, but the United Nations does not leave the ambassador.”
In any case, Haley and DeSantis' tactic makes some sense at this point and in the face of a formidable competitor like Trump. Because even if Iowa, which is mostly white and has a large population, and a heavy weight of evangelical votes, is not a representative state for the country (one of the arguments used by Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee for not opening its headquarters here this year) and its own internal election process), whichever works In better positioning himself in Monday's caucuses, he will get a boost to continue presenting himself as a potential alternative to the front-runner. While experience shows that Iowa often does not elect presidents, it helps make and break races.
For DeSantis, who has the support of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a good outcome is starting to become a matter of survival. Healy, on the other hand, has more room to manoeuvre, but finishing second on Monday would be particularly important as well. She's up next, the primary on the 23rd in New Hampshire, where according to some polls she's closer to Trump. The way was cleared further on Wednesday, when former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced he was withdrawing from the race.
Although Christie did not campaign in Iowa and was practically not counted in the polls, in some of those in New Hampshire he had just over 10% of voters, and between half and two-thirds of them saw Haley as the second choice. The natural heir in the race was those voters who supported a candidate who made an effort to block Trump from his central proposal. On the negative side of the scale, not only did Christie withdraw without endorsing Haley's candidacy, but she was stuck in front of an open mic that diminished her future potential. “They will destroy it,” he predicted. “It's not equal.”
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