Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Donald Trump and his Republican rivals for president battled to lock up support from Iowa voters over the weekend, in a final burst of campaigning across the Midwestern state before the party’s caucuses launch the 2024 race for the White House.
The former US president is aiming to translate an overwhelming polling lead among Iowa Republicans into a commanding victory on Monday night that would ease his path to the party’s nomination to face off against Joe Biden in the November general election.
“One day from now, we are going to win Iowa’s first in the nation’s caucuses,” Trump told a standing-room-only crowd at a rally in Indianola, Iowa, on Sunday afternoon. “A victory that will echo throughout the country and all around the world.”
Nikki Haley has emerged as Trump’s top Republican rival after moving into second place in Iowa over the past week. The former US ambassador to the UN is trying to narrow the gap with the former president to better position herself for the second contest of the nomination fight, to be held in New Hampshire later this month.
Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, has slid into third place in Iowa and is hoping to breathe new life into his campaign. If he fares poorly in the Midwestern state he will face pressure to drop out.
The last weekend of campaigning in Iowa was disrupted by a blizzard that swept through the state on Friday and Saturday and prompted all of the candidates to cancel or delay planned campaign stops. Frigid temperatures on Sunday were expected to continue into the early part of the week, threatening voter turnout.
A widely followed poll published by the Des Moines Register along with NBC News on Saturday night showed 48 per cent of Iowa voters supported Trump, while 20 per cent backed Haley and 16 per cent picked DeSantis. Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy trailed in a distant fourth place, with 8 points.
According to the survey, Trump is leading the field with evangelical Christian voters, a big Republican voting bloc in the state, as well as first time caucus-goers.
Haley is performing better among university-educated moderate and independent voters who are less inclined towards Trump’s economic populism and isolationist foreign policy, and are turned off by his legal troubles and authoritarian rhetoric.
Larry Hogan, the former Republican governor of Maryland, said on CNN on Sunday that it was “time for the party to get behind Nikki Haley” and she had “all the momentum”.
But Haley has lower favourability ratings among Iowa Republicans compared to Trump and DeSantis, and a weaker ground operation in the state, which could limit her gains on Monday night.
On ABC News, DeSantis blasted Haley for “not getting support from conservatives”, as he tried to recapture second place from her.
“She’s relying on Democrat-leaning independents for her support in the primary, that’s just not the way you can win and galvanise support from the party faithful,” he said.
But Haley batted away concerns that her supporters may fail to show up.
“I’m not worried,” Haley told Fox News Sunday. “We’re just excited that tomorrow is the day. It’s go time and we’re going to keep criss-crossing the state. We’ve done that for days now. We’re going to keep doing it and I think the intensity will show tomorrow.”
Trump and his allies have sought to temper expectations heading into the caucuses, given the size of his polling lead. But the former president has also torn into his rivals, in an eleventh-hour push to run up his own numbers.
On Saturday night, Trump attacked Ramaswamy for the first time this campaign cycle, accusing the 38-year-old political novice of “deceitful campaign tricks” and urging voters not to “get duped” and “waste” their ballots on him.
At a rally in Indianola on Sunday afternoon, Trump accepted the endorsement of Doug Burgum, the Republican governor of North Dakota who suspended his own long-shot bid for the White House last year.
Burgum is the first former 2024 Republican presidential hopeful to back Trump. Former vice-president Mike Pence, South Carolina senator Tim Scott and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie have all suspended their campaigns but so far not endorsed any of the candidates.
In a surprise move, Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, also threw his weight behind Trump on Saturday, saying in a social media post that as president Trump “didn’t cave to special interests or let bureaucrats block us”.
“It’s time to get on with the work of beating Biden & saving America!” Rubio added.
Credit: Source link