Washington: Donald Trump scripted a decisive victory in the Iowa caucuses, cementing his status as the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, a contest that also saw Indian-American entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy ending his bid and backing the former US president.
Iowa is the first of the state-by-state contests where Republican Party voters pick their candidate who will almost certainly face Joe Biden, a Democrat, in the November 5 presidential election.
Despite facing a number of legal challenges, Trump, 77, won the Iowa caucuses in a landslide with Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida securing a critical but distant second-place finish in the contest that took place amidst blistering cold.
Trump won 51 per cent of the votes, an unprecedented margin, kickstarting his bid to win his party’s third consecutive presidential nomination.
Trump’s victory was the largest margin in the history of Iowa’s Republican presidential caucuses, easily surpassing the previous winning margin of 12.8 per cent set in 1988 by the late Senator Bob Dole.
With about 94 per cent of the results that have been recorded, CNN reported that Trump will receive 20 of Iowa’s 40 delegates. DeSantis is estimated to get eight delegates, Haley to get seven delegates and Ramaswamy will receive two delegates. There are 3 delegates unallocated.
There are a total of 2,429 delegates up for grabs in the Republican primary season. A candidate needs the backing of at least 1,215 delegates to win the nomination.
Thanking “the great people of Iowa”, an ebullient Trump said, adding that “it would be so nice if we could come together and straighten up the problems of the world”.
“It’s going to happen soon,” he said, amidst cheers from his supporters.
Trump also sought to patch things up with Ramaswamy and said “He did a hell of a job. He came from zero, and he has a big per cent.”
Out of the total votes, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in second with 21.2 per cent of the votes polled, as against 51 per cent by Trump. Indian-American former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley came a close third with 19.1 per cent of the votes polled.
Trump’s landslide Iowa win is a stunning show of strength after leaving Washington in disgrace, the US media commented.
Trump is facing an unprecedented 91 criminal charges across four indictments and trials. Some of the cases could occur in the coming months, including one in Washington set for March 4 accusing him of illegally trying to upend his 2020 election loss to Biden. But the criminal charges did not impact him in the lead-up to the Iowa vote.
Meanwhile, 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur Ramaswamy suspended his presidential campaign following his poor showing in the Iowa Caucus and announced his endorsement of its winner Trump.
Ramaswamy was a distant fourth with 7.7 per cent of the votes polled.
“I looked at every which way, and I think it’s true that we did not achieve the surprise that we wanted to deliver tonight… As of this moment, we are going to suspend this presidential campaign. There is no path for me to be the next president,” Ramaswamy, told his disappointed supporters in Iowa as the results of the Republican presidential caucus came in.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Ramaswamy said he had expected to draw more first-time caucusgoers, “and that proved too difficult to actually translate into meaningful results.”
He said he had not been anticipating earlier today that he would be dropping out, and said he was “a little surprised by what happened tonight.”
Standing alongside his wife and his son Karthik, Ramaswamy said he will appear at a rally in New Hampshire with Donald Trump tomorrow. He was previously scheduled to hold several of his own events in the Granite State the day after the caucuses, the New York Times reported.
Haley, who finished third in the Iowa caucuses, has said that she is the only Republican candidate who could take on frontrunner Donald Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden and avert a “Trump-Biden nightmare”.
Haley, the former US Ambassador to the UN and a two-time South Carolina governor said her presidential campaign is the best hope to avert a rematch between Trump and incumbent President Biden, a Democrat, in the presidential election.
“Our campaign is the last best hope of stopping the Trump-Biden nightmare,” the 51-year-old politician told her cheering supporters in West Des Moines, Iowa, late on Monday.
Haley, who has been climbing up the ladder over the last few weeks, said she is headed to New Hampshire, the battleground for the next Republican primary election on January 23.
Addressing her supporters, the lone woman in the race on either side of the political spectrum said that all the evidence says that if it’s a Trump-Biden rematch, it will be another tossup election.
“It could go either way. We could have more disputes over election interference. And Joe Biden could win again, with Kamala Harris waiting in the wings. Lord, help us,” she said.
Haley also claimed the Republican contest to choose the presidential nominee is now a two-person race.
While the race has narrowed, Republicans will not officially name their presidential candidate until their party convention in July, while Democrats are expected to name Biden as their candidate at an August convention.