Iowa caucus-goers go full MAGA as Trump projected to win in landslide

Sixty-eight per cent of those who arrived early to caucus sites said they didn’t believe that President Joe Biden was legitimately elected

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 16 January 2024 03:12 GMT
Related video: Iowa caucus: What’s at stake for Republicans?

Iowa caucus-goers are going full MAGA, with many expressing beliefs in debunked conspiracy theories as former President Donald Trump is projected to win the first-in-the-nation contest.

In a CNN entrance poll, 68 per cent of those who arrived early to caucus sites said they didn’t believe that President Joe Biden was legitimately elected. Among Trump voters, that number rose to 88 per cent, CBS noted.

Steve Kornacki of MSNBC reported that a large education gap between those backing Mr Trump and the other main candidates, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Among caucusgoers with college degrees, 35 per cent backed Mr Trump, 33 per cent supported Ms Haley, and 23 per cent backed Mr DeSantis, according to the entrance poll shared by the network. Among those without a college degree, 65 per cent backed Mr Trump, 17 per cent supported Mr DeSantis, and eight per cent backed Ms Haley.

In the NBC poll, 79 per cent of Haley backers said they thought Mr Biden was legitimately elected, the same was true for 40 per cent of those supporting Mr DeSantis and six per cent of those backing Mr Trump.

More than half of the GOP caucus attendees in the Hawkeye State said they identify with the MAGA movement, and only a small number said they were concerned about Mr Trump’s legal woes.

About six in 10 said they would consider Mr Trump to be fit for the presidency even if he’s convicted of a crime in the CNN poll – the former president faces four indictments and 91 criminal counts. Only about a third said they wouldn’t think he’s fit to be commander-in-chief if he’s convicted of a crime.

Ahead of the caucuses, Mr Trump shared a bizarre video stating that God created him to be the “caretaker” for the US. Mr Trump is relying on Evangelical voters to bring him to victory in the GOP primary, with Baylor University Professor Barry Hankins telling The Washington Post that “the support has gone from begrudging to enthusiastic. Many evangelicals now see Trump as their champion and defender — perhaps even saviour”.

“Unwittingly, in my view, many evangelicals are welcoming authoritarianism and courting blasphemy,” he added.

The only caucusgoer to speak in support of the ex-president on Monday night, Patricia Lage, told The New York Times, “I know that he is picked by God for this hour. There are things that he has done in the past, but we all have pasts”.

When the caucusgoers were asked by CNN about what quality in a candidate was most important to them, 43 per cent said they wanted someone who shares their values, 31 per cent said they wanted a candidate who fights for people like them, while only 12 per cent said beating President Joe Biden was most important, with the same number of caucusgoers said the most important quality was having the right temperament.

CNN noted that 16 per cent of caucusgoers said they were independents and two per cent said they identified as Democrats.

An anchor at the network, Abby Phillip, said on Monday night that “it is still a hope against hope that any candidate not named Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee. That's just the reality of the situation”.

“There's not a clear path for other candidates yet. And tonight doesn't really change anything,” she added.

“Almost 70 per cent of caucusgoers ... believe that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected President of the United States. If that is not a Donald Trump Republican Party, I don't know what is,” Ms Phillip said. “This is not an electorate that is particularly interested in taking a different course. That's what Ron DeSantis is selling. That's what Nikki Haley is selling. They don't want to go another way. They want to go back to Trump.”

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