The shock from Iowa’s Republican caucus for the party’s presidential nomination is that there was no shock. The polls had it right, not only that Donald Trump would win but that he would win because his supporters were much more amped up than those for Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis.

This small rural state, suffused with farmers and Christian evangelists and completely unrepresentative of America as a whole, has unholy power in framing the pursuit of the Holy Grail of the Republican presidential nomination. The Republican candidates spent $US123 million ($186 million) to get those 100,000 or so Iowa voters to caucus for them.

Trump romped in, with more than 50 per cent of the vote. Haley, former governor of South Carolina and Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, and DeSantis, the “Trump-without-the-baggage” governor of Florida who was going to save the Republican Party, each came in some 30 points behind the former president.

Haley is the bridge between the old Republican Party under Ronald Reagan and the new America First populist and nativist party that is Trump. Both Haley and DeSantis believe they got momentum out of Iowa, but it’s a chimera.

New Hampshire’s primary is next Tuesday. With its flinty, Yankee, contrarian patriotism (the motor vehicle licence plates proclaim, “Live Free or Die”), New Hampshire voters have a history of shocking the political establishments of both parties.

That has proved very costly to the frontrunners in their parties. In 1984, Colorado Democratic senator Gary Hart stunned vice president Walter Mondale in New Hampshire. In 2000, Republican senator John McCain did the same to George W. Bush.

Mondale and Bush went into freefall for several weeks. But in both parties, the empires struck back, and the favourites survived the scare.

In South Carolina, the tactics were vicious. Bush allies circulated rumours that McCain had an out-of-wedlock black child. McCain and his wife had adopted a black girl. But the damage was done; Bush crushed McCain in that state and went on to win the nomination.

If the Iowa winner is upset in New Hampshire, a high political cost is exacted. In 2008, Barack Obama stunned Hillary Clinton in Iowa. He showed that a black candidate could win in a white midwestern state – a compelling narrative for Obama. If Obama had gone on to win New Hampshire just five days later, he would have sealed the nomination that month. But Clinton showed some real emotion about why she was running and what she was fighting for.

She won New Hampshire, and it took Obama five more months of state-by-state combat to secure victory. While painful, the protracted fight made Obama a stronger candidate for November, and he crushed McCain. In 2016, Clinton edged Bernie Sanders in Iowa. He won New Hampshire two weeks later, and it took her months to finally win the nomination.

This is what Trump intends to avoid at all costs. The Republican Party’s crown is his just one week from now if he can dispatch Haley in New Hampshire. Trump seeks utter domination. Trump’s playbook is obvious: attack, degrade and destroy.

Vivek Ramaswamy, the upstart high-tech entrepreneur, presented himself as a younger Trump with all his hero’s values. But Trump demands that he get every vote to cement his dominance. In the days before Iowa, Trump turned on Ramaswamy in vicious terms as a traitor to Trump, and that “a vote for Vivek is a vote for the ‘other side’ ”.

It is Haley who is viable in New Hampshire. This coming week will show Trump going scorched earth on her. If you thought that former prime minister Tony Abbott’s attacks on prime minister Julia Gillard were the height of misogyny in politics, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Trump, who knows where to grab a woman and where they bleed from, will bring all his special expertise to his assault on Haley.

Trump will have his sweetest revenge in South Carolina, where he is poised to humiliate Haley in her home state. As for DeSantis, there currently is no state, not even Florida, where he can best Trump.

Trump will continue his campaign in courtrooms across the country. From Iowa, he went to New York to face charges of defaming a woman he sexually abused years ago.

Trump has said that he has decided on his vice president. Trump knows what he will not repeat: a vice president who can turn on him at a crucial juncture, as Mike Pence did in helping to save America’s democracy on that January 6.

Trump knows he must have a vice president who is completely subservient and will do his bidding without hesitation or second-guessing.

Trump’s vice president will also know something: that the shortest route into the Oval Office for his choice (and most likely a woman) is to be first in the line of succession of a man who, if elected, will be older than President Joe Biden at the end of his term.

In an election where enthusiasm is the most precious commodity, Trump has shown that his base not only comes to the party, but is the Republican Party.

That is Biden’s challenge: to get his supporters across the Democratic coalition out in force. If the Biden campaign fails to execute, Trump is poised to take the country back.