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What's at stake in the Iowa caucuses?

Here's everything you need to know about where we are, how we got here, and what's at stake Monday night.
What's at stake in the Iowa caucuses?
Posted at 8:11 AM, Jan 15, 2024

With post-blizzard conditions and historically frigid temperatures, the only heat in Iowa on Monday will come from the political spotlight.

Forget the debates, the pollsters and the pundits; starting Monday night, everyday Iowans take center stage, attending caucuses all around the state to cast the first official ballots of this presidential election season.

Former President Donald Trump continues to enjoy a huge advantage in the Hawkeye State, with the last major poll showing him with 48% support among likely caucus-goers.

Trump's mountain of legal troubles and pending trials have done little to stop his momentum, especially among working-class White voters, a dominant demographic here in Iowa, where 40 delegates are up for grabs and where the Trump campaign has stepped up its ground game big time compared to 2016.

Barring any surprises, the real contest Monday night will likely be the battle for second place, with that same final poll showing former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in second place with 20% of the vote and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis close behind with 16%.

The governor of Iowa has endorsed DeSantis, who has been betting big on the state; therefore, a third-place finish on Monday night could be a devastating blow.

Despite low voter enthusiasm for her here in Iowa, Haley seems to also be surging in the next state to vote, New Hampshire, where she has significantly narrowed the gap between her and Trump to the single digits.

Because the Democrats are using a mail-in voting process this time around in Iowa, Monday's caucuses are a Republican-only event to pick their nominee, and the GOP faithful will have to brave the body-numbing cold to cast their secret ballots.

In fact, this could be the coldest caucus in state history, with wind chills well below zero when voting starts at 7 p.m. local time. Many are wondering what impact Old Man Winter may have on turnout and which candidates the temperatures could help or hurt.

Caucuses may seem like an antiquated and time-consuming system to some, but Monday night is still all about bragging rights and momentum. It's the first official test of all the candidates' strengths and weaknesses and their ability to stay in the race. 

No matter what, the road to November begins to get paved just a few hours from now.

SEE MORE: How will the Iowa caucus results be protected?


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