Trump notches a commanding win in the Iowa caucuses as DeSantis edges Haley for second place

By Steve Peoples, Thomas Beaumont and Hannah Fingerhut, Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former President Donald Trump scored a record-setting win in the Iowa caucuses on Monday with his rivals languishing far behind, a victory that sent a resounding message that the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination is his to lose.

Trump was on track to set a record for a contested Iowa Republican caucus with a margin of victory exceeding the nearly 13 percentage points that Bob Dole won by in 1988. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finished a distant second ahead of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

In what was expected to be a low-turnout affair, caucusgoers endured life-threatening cold and dangerous driving conditions to meet in hundreds of schools, churches and community centers across the state.

Haley plans to compete vigorously in New Hampshire, where she hopes to be more successful with the state’s independent voters heading into the Jan. 23 primary. DeSantis, meanwhile, is heading straight to South Carolina, a conservative stronghold where the Feb. 24 contest could prove pivotal. Conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy announced that he was suspending his campaign.

Trump, who has repeatedly vowed vengeance against his political opponents in recent months, offered a message of unity in a victory speech Monday night.

“We want to come together, whether it’s Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative,” Trump said. “We’re going to come together. It’s going to happen soon.”

Trump has spent much of the past year building a far more professional organization in Iowa than the relatively haphazard effort he oversaw in 2016, when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz carried the caucuses. His team paid special attention to building a sophisticated digital and data operation to regularly engage with potential supporters and ensure they knew how to participate in the caucuses.

Iowa has been an uneven predictor of who will ultimately lead Republicans into the general election. George W. Bush’s 2000 victory was the last time a Republican candidate won in Iowa and went on to become the party’s standard-bearer.

But Trump was already looking ahead to a potential general election matchup against President Joe Biden as he addressed hundreds of cheering supporters at a caucus site at the Horizon Events Center in Clive, Iowa.

“He is totally destroying our country,” Trump said of Biden. “We were a great nation three years ago and today people are laughing at us.”