Republicans running in the 2024 presidential primary will face voters early next year in those two early-voting states. Iowa’s caucus remains unscheduled, and New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary is scheduled for March 12. Election analysts view strong showings in these states as essential for a presidential candidate, as it helps build momentum for their campaigns.
Presidential candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties have already flocked to the states to begin campaigning to build support among the electorate there. Republican voters in these states will have the power to shape the early days of the primary between Trump, DeSantis and other Republican contenders.
Early polling shows Trump, who served as president from 2017 to 2021, as the leading candidate for Republicans in both early states. While several other Republicans are splitting the anti-Trump vote, DeSantis is viewed as the GOP candidate with the best chance of defeatingTrump. Doing so would likely require a strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Ron DeSantis’ Chances of Beating Trump in Iowa
Recent polls show Trump is the favorite to win the Republican primary election in Iowa, a traditionally competitive general election state that has shifted toward Republicans after Trump flipped it in 2016. Unlike most other states, Iowa uses a caucus system in presidential primaries. A caucus is an organized gathering of registered voters in precincts across the state to award delegates to a candidate.
A May 23 to 25 McLaughlin & Associates poll of 400 likely GOP voters in Iowa found Trump securing 49.5 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, 24 percent of likely voters said they planned to back DeSantis. This survey shows the former president with just over double the support than that of the Florida governor.
Every other candidate polled in the single digits. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott received 6.8 percent support, former Vice President Mike Pence received 4.5 percent and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley received 4.2 percent.
Timothy Hagle, a professor of political science at the University of Iowa, told Newsweek on Saturday that Trump’s solid lead in the polls is “not surprising,” as he has higher name recognition than his challengers. He noted that it remains early in the campaign season, and that some Republicans could remain open to other candidates with a different political style to Trump.
“Of course, everyone knows Trump at this point,” he said. “It’s not surprising that he’s got a pretty solid base.”
He noted that Iowa can be particularly difficult to poll because it uses a caucus, rather than a primary, system.
“The weather could be bad. It will be cold, probably. People have to be sufficiently energized to show up for you,” he said. “It means you’ve got to have that connection with them.”
Newsweek reached out to the DeSantis campaign for comment via the campaign website.
Ron DeSantis’ Chances of Beating Trump in New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, which holds the first primary election, DeSantis faces similar odds, according to recent polls. A May 15 to 17 National Research poll of 500 likely voters found Trump winning 39 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. Meanwhile, 18 percent of voters said they would back DeSantis. Again, the former president’s support was more than double that of his top GOP challenger.
Another 17 percent said they planned to vote for their state’s Republican Governor Chris Sununu, should he choose to run. Sununu has served as governor since 2017 and easily won reelection in the state in 2020 and 2022. Six percent of respondents said they would vote for businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, while three percent said they would back Haley. Other candidates polled at one percent.
That poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38 percentage points.
New Hampshire also plays an important role as a battleground state in the general election. Although it backed President Joe Biden by about seven points in 2020, and delivered strong results for federal Democrats during the 2022 midterms, the state is viewed as potentially being competitive next November.
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