February 25, 2024

Iowa voted at -20 degrees

Donald Trump enters the first Republican primary in Iowa on Monday as the favorite. Arctic temperatures seem to be an advantage for him. But only at first glance.

Winter hit Iowa last week with freezing temperatures, and temperatures are expected to reach record levels on Election Day.

Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images

On paper, the Republican primary appears to be decided before it even begins. Donald Trump is also leading in Iowa, according to current polling NBC television station, 48 percent. He was followed by his former ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, with 20 percent, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, with 16 percent. However, extremely cold weather on Election Day could now become a factor that upends previous forecasts. The thermometer in the regional capital, Des Moines, dropped to just below minus 20 degrees Celsius on Monday.

At first glance, the cold of the Arctic appears to be primarily to Trump's advantage. Nearly 90 percent of his voters said in the aforementioned poll that they supported Trump very enthusiastically. For DeSantis, only about 60% of his voters said that, and for Haley it was just under 40%. The motivations of individual voters are likely to have a major impact on whether they head to the polls on Monday despite the bitter cold.

Mobilizing on Election Day is crucial

Mobilizing on Election Day is also key to success in Iowa. Voters in the conservative state elect their preferred presidential candidate in the evening at party meetings – so-called caucuses. So, if you want to have an opinion, you have to show up in person.

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However, a large lead in the polls can also be a disadvantage. Many Trump supporters may not show up to vote because they assume everything is already decided. That's why Trump told supporters at a campaign appearance on Sunday Again urgently to conscience: “You can't sit at home,” he said. Even if voters are “sick as a dog,” they should say to their spouses: “Honey, I have to do this.” Rather, they must risk their lives: “Even if you vote and die, it will be worth it,” the former president said with his usual dark humor, drawing laughter from the audience.

Trump leads in Iowa

Respondents' intention to vote in the Iowa Republican primary, by percentage

However, since Trump voters mainly live in rural areas, where they sometimes have to drive very long distances to reach the caucus in question, cold weather could also be a disadvantage for him. In contrast, Healy's voters live primarily in urban centers and agglomerations. In her election campaign, the former governor of South Carolina tried to build a bridge between Trump voters and the moderate forces in her party, as well as swing voters. Since they now have to take a shorter route to the caucuses, that could be an advantage.

Fateful election for DeSantis

In order to mobilize voters in this weather, you also need to be well organized down to individual communities. This should also benefit Trump and DeSantis. For example, the Trump campaign offers rural voters rides to party conventions. For his part, Florida Governor DeSantis has invested a lot in Iowa. He takes a restrictive position on social and political issues such as the right to abortion. In doing so, he hoped to win the support of many evangelical Christians in the rural Midwestern state. To win the base, he visited all 99 Iowa precincts and also received the support of incumbent Governor Kim Reynolds.

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However, if voters do not reward DeSantis' hard work in Iowa, he will have to consider ending his campaign early. He must hold a significant lead over Haley and keep the gap with Trump within limits to have any hope. For Haley to turn the primaries into a duel with Trump as quickly as possible, she must finish at least second in Iowa.

Nikki Haley is catching up in New Hampshire

Respondents' intention to vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary, by percentage

If the Iowa caucuses result in a duel between Trump and Haley, things will get interesting in New Hampshire. Republicans are scheduled to elect their presidential candidate there on January 23. In the moderate state on the East Coast, Haley trails Trump by only 7 percentage points in the polls. If she pulls off an upset there, a new dynamic may develop in the race for the White House.

But right now, almost everything indicates that Republicans will make Trump their presidential nominee again. Even the arctic cold of Iowa doesn't change that.