Iowa showed how weak Trump is, and how extreme the GOP's become
Contrary to the corporate media narrative, the Republican Party fractured, half chose another candidate--and some will even vote for Biden over Trump.
Once again, our corporate media went for the horse race reporting, doing a disservice to all voters in covering the GOP’s Iowa Caucuses. All of the major news organizations and networks talked about how Donald Trump “dominated” in a “landslide.” While those terms are technically true of the contest that was held this week in a deep freeze, reporters, pundits and TV anchors used them to underscore Trump’s supposed “strength.”
But looking at it in context—and diving into the numbers, as I did yesterday on my SiriusXM program—Trump is weak.
First off, the media treated him as if he were a newcomer to presidential politics in a field of newcomers, when, as a few smart pundits have pointed out, he should be treated as an incumbent. Trump’s been president before, after all, and, looking at it in that frame, he’s the first former or incumbent president to only crack 51% in the Iowa Caucuses, which is certainly not good. Imagine what the media would be doing if Joe Biden got just over 50%.
This isn’t simply semantics. Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, who claims (falsely) that he actually won in 2020. He has wielded power over Republicans in Congress, deciding who gets to be house speaker and who doesn’t. He determines what policies the GOP has backed and will back during the Biden years.
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And going into deeply red Iowa, he had the endorsements of over 100 House members—including the entire House leadership—almost 20 U.S. senators and 8 governors. Ron DeSantis had the endorsement of only five House members (though he did score a coup with the endorsement of Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds), while Nikki Haley had the endorsement of just one, South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman.
And yet, Trump walks away with only half of the delegates. Half of Iowa caucus goers voted for someone else. Half believed Trump should not be the party’s top pick. It’s true, of course, that the vast majority of them will vote for Trump when he gets the nomination. But it revealed a lack of faith and a lot of discontent at this point in time for someone who’s already been president and is the leader of the Republican Party. That’s a fractured GOP in the first contest, and it’s shaky for an incumbent.
If Haley does better in New Hampshire than she did in Iowa—with some polls showing her behind Trump just by single digits—it will be more evidence of that. She’s unlikely to go anywhere after that (nor is DeSantis), as Trump has a grip on the majority of the party and will win the nomination. But he doesn’t have the grip of an incumbent in a party in which a substantial number of people are backing others as their first choice, while the GOP elites have, in fear, coronated him already.
Iowa also showed how extreme the GOP has become. DeSantis came in a distant second with 21%, not Haley—even as the media hyped her supposed surge—who came in third at 19%. So fully 72% supported as their first choice a wannabe dictator who has pushed authoritarian policies either as president before or as governor. Add in the showing of the unhinged extremist Vivek Ramaswamy, who grabbed 8%, and you have 80% of those who attended the caucuses embracing fascistic leaders.
They simply disagreed on who could do fascism the best, or is most likely to beat Biden, or both—the original Trump or the imitators. Some Iowa GOP voters in fact told reporters they want a “dictator”—as Trump defined his “day one” stance—and that America “needs a dictator. “
Then there’s the entrance poll, which revealed that 66% of those who attended the caucuses—which had a dismal turnout of just over 110,000 people compared to almost 187,000 in 2016—believed Biden was not legitimately elected. And just about the same amount supports a federal abortion ban. These people are deep in the Big Lie and support Trump’s attack on democracy. And yet, in a general election, the threat to democracy and the stripping of abortion rights will sink Trump—as both issues sunk MAGA candidates in 2022 and 2023.
Looking at Nikki Haley’s supporters, we see something very interesting. Nearly half said in the entrance poll that if Trump wins, they will vote for Joe Biden (and 11% of all Iowa Caucus voters said the same). That’s a lot of people. And another datapoint could spell disaster for Trump: 31% of those in the entrance poll said Trump, if convicted, would not be fit to serve as president. (Of course, it’s pretty sick that over 60% say he would be fit to be president if convicted.)
Sure, Trump might not be convicted before the election (or at all), or he will certainly spin, lie, and appeal. And what GOP voters say at any given time about anything should never be trusted. Just look at how much they’ve shifted to supporting the January 6th insurrectionists from their positions three years ago.
So take that 31% with a grain of salt. But if Trump were even to lose 10%, it would be impossible for him to win. The kind of election campaigns he runs demand complete and total loyalty from the GOP base in a few swing states. It’s always been risky, and it obviously didn’t work in 2020.
For all these reasons, the Iowa Caucuses didn’t show Trump as strong, even if he won by 30 points. The bar for him is always set low by the media, and this was yet another example of giving him a pass.
Meanwhile, Democrats, having won big in special elections in 2022 and 2023—and having stopped a red wave in 2022 and having had a blue wave in 2023—flipped another GOP seat in a special election in Florida last night. Democrat Tom Keen beat right-wing school board leader Erica Booth in a key state legislative race in Central Florida. The Orlando Sentinel reports:
In a race seen as a bellwether for Democratic chances in November, Democrat Tom Keen flipped what had been a Republican state House seat in Central Florida in a special election held Tuesday.
As I’ve said for well over a year now, let’s follow real, live elections, over polling of match-ups many month off. This week in Iowa, the GOP’s supposedly all-powerful force, a former president bowed to by leaders in the party, barely cracked 50% in the first contest—when he should have gotten 80% or better, if he were a strong, stable incumbent—while Democrats continued a winning streak of flipping Republican seats into 2024, running on abortion rights and the threat to democracy. All of that bodes well for Joe Biden.