Newswise — The first contest of the 2024 presidential election, the Iowa Republican caucuses, saw former President Donald Trump cruise to a decisive victory, winning more than half of caucus-goers’ votes. His two most prominent rivals for the GOP nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, finished a distant second and third place, respectively.

Virginia Tech political experts Karen Hult and Caitlin Jewitt provided perspectives on what these results could spell for the Jan. 23 Republican primary in New Hampshire and the race overall.

“As they have in the past, the Iowa caucuses winnowed the field of contenders. Asa Hutchinson and Vivek Ramaswamy have joined former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in ending their bids,” said Hult. “The caucuses underscored Trump’s continuing strength among Republican activists, at least temporarily revived a slumping DeSantis campaign, and showed the limits on the breadth and depth of Haley’s appeal.”

“Haley and DeSantis will need to do better than expected in New Hampshire in order to have any chance of staying in the race,” said Jewitt. “If they don’t perform well in New Hampshire, the question will become not if, but when they withdraw from the race. Trump could become the de facto nominee because all his challengers have dropped out or once he has secured 50% of the possible delegates.” 

“Unlike Iowa, New Hampshire is a primary state, and its primary is semi-open, in which independents as well as registered Republicans can vote. Nonetheless, Trump appears to lead in the polls there as well, though not by the margins one saw in Iowa,” Hult said. “Haley may well benefit from the support that Christie had in New Hampshire from more moderate Republicans and those who find the former president either too vulnerable in the general election or are worried about his apparent threat to representative democracy and constitutional norms.

“A closer look at the county-by-county voting suggests that in more metropolitan areas, it might be that a more centrist Haley has support, including in university towns and areas with somewhat larger minority populations. This in turn suggests that Haley could be accurate in asserting that it’s now a ‘two-person race,’” Hult said. “At the same time, whether she, or DeSantis, can overtake Trump for the nomination continues to appear unlikely.”

“In 2000, the Republican nomination was only competitive for 50 days,” Jewitt said. “It is quite possible that this year we’ll see a new record set for the shortest time a candidate becomes a presumptive nominee — excluding the years an incumbent president was running for re-election.”

About Hult  

Karen Hult teaches political science at Virginia Tech and is Ph.D. Director of its Center for Public Administration & Policy, with expertise in the U.S. Presidency, federal and state politics, policy, and governance, and federal and state courts. See her bio.

About Jewitt

Caitlin Jewitt is an associate professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Political Science and the associate department chair. Her research focus includes campaigns and elections, public opinion, political parties, and presidential primaries and caucuses. See her bio.

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