What to Watch for in the Iowa Caucuses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The first major test for candidates seeking the 2024 Republican nomination for president is unfolding in Iowa. Frigid temperatures and winter weather could have an impact on turnout for Republican caucus-goers.  

According to experts, analysts, and lawmakers, most are expecting a strong performance from former President Donald Trump. However, there are a lot of factors in play here, and one of those is the winter weather. We asked experts before the caucusing begins in Iowa; they said even though the former president and Nikki Haley, the former Governor of South Carolina, are both polling well, it’s really going to come down to which supporters are more determined to show up in this inclement weather.  

“Even though Donald Trump has a significant lead, the people that say that they’re very likely or extremely likely to vote for him is very, very high; it’s in the high eighties,” said Dr. Todd Belt, George Washington University Director of Political Management. “It’s not so high for Nikki Haley. So even though Nikki Haley is polling very high, I think she has the most to lose here because the enthusiasm level for her is at about 39% of the people say that they are likely or very likely to vote for her.” 

Although Donald Trump is the favorite to prevail this evening, experts are watching several other outcomes very closely.  

The first, if Trump doesn’t earn at least 50 percent of the vote tonight, it means that he’s not the preferred choice for the majority of Republicans, at least in Iowa.  

“That could give a lot more mobilization to the other candidates,” said Belt. 

DeSantis put a lot of time and resources toward Iowa. Belt said if the Florida Governor doesn’t finish with a strong second place, his campaign may have some tough decisions to make and some tough questions to answer about their future in this race. 

“If Ron DeSantis, who went all in on Iowa, doesn’t play second, then it may be over for him and we might be looking at a two-person race,” said Belt, adding that a second-place finish for Haley could result in serious momentum for the former South Carolina Governor. “If she pulls off the second-place finish here- even though she said that the New Hampshire voters could correct for what Iowa does, trying to lower expectations for herself- then she’s way above expectations,” Belt added.