Well... that was boring. The 31 minutes before Trump's victory was called did little to move me to the edge of my seat. We know now, what we knew then: Trump has a substantial and consolidated base of supporters in Iowa who want the former president back in the White House in 2025 – two-thirds of whom still believe Biden was not legitimately elected in 2020. Do we even bother to tune in to the rest of the primaries? Yes. Here’s two reasons:
One: Trump’s nomination looks to be all but inevitable, but the race is technically not over. No one in a competitive, open Republican primary since 1976 has won both Iowa and New Hampshire. In fact, in the last three competitive Republican races, the Iowa winner failed to seal the Republican nomination. Iowa – being older, more white, more evangelical, and more rural – is a natural home for rusted on Trump supporters. But future primaries, including New Hampshire next week, have electorates who are more receptive to a Trump alternative and are demographically more moderate, college-educated and suburban. Only about 13 percentage points separate Trump and Nikki Haley in New Hampshire. In Iowa, it was 30 per cent. A closer race in New Hampshire might just build momentum among ‘Never Trump’ or ‘preferably not Trump’ constituencies (‘might just’ being instructive).
Two: Even if New Hampshire is just delaying the inevitable, we’re watching history in action. No one has carried Iowa by such a large margin of victory, let alone with 91 felony charges, a full presidential term, and two impeachments attached. Perhaps it’s cliché to, yet again, highlight Trump’s history-making proclivity, but it’s less about Trump himself and more about what his voters’ support indicates: large numbers of Americans are dissatisfied with the status quo, they are energised by concern over the Democrats’ progressive policy priorities, they feel unheard by elected representatives and under-represented by decision-makers, and they trust Donald Trump more than key US democratic institutions, including the courts and the electoral process. The primaries’ ability to unveil and clarify these trends, and the implications of these attitudes on the general election, let alone the future of US politics, are certainly worth watching over the coming weeks.
For more on what to expect this election year read our Guide to the 2024 presidential election: from primaries to president by Research Associates Ava Kalinauskas and Samuel Garrett