The reality of the impending election became much more salient with the start of the new year. With the general election merely months away, Democrats and Republicans alike are building up anticipation for who will become the next president of the United States. On Jan. 15, the Republican Party held its primary election for this year’s presidential candidates in Iowa.
Per the results, former President Donald Trump took the lead with 51% of the vote, followed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley with 21% and 19%, respectively. Entrepreneur and political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy secured just 8% of the vote despite building some momentum for his campaign over the last few months, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson both came in last.
The Iowa caucus process differs from a conventional primary election, in which, similarly to a general election, constituents vote anonymously for their preferred candidate. The primary elections in Iowa are known as the Iowa caucuses — voters gather in person for dialogue regarding the various presidential candidates. Due to this requirement, caucuses require high voter commitment and result in lower voter turnout and accessibility. These discussions occur at neighborhood hubs like schools, churches and community centers, and for this year’s Republican caucus, there were about 1,700 precincts across Iowa.
Despite Iowa only having six electoral votes, the significance of the Iowa caucuses is traced to the state being the first to have primary elections due to procedural changes made during the 1968 election. Since then, presidential candidates have viewed the Iowa caucuses as a means to garner voter support and secure their footing in the general election.
This year, Ramaswamy dropped out of the presidential race immediately following the Iowa caucuses and endorsed Trump for president. Part of Ramaswamy’s platform was the elimination of the Department of Education, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service through the force of executive order to reinstall Trump’s “America First” ideology back into the executive branch of the federal government.
During his announcement regarding the suspension of his presidential campaign and performance in the Iowa caucuses, Ramaswamy said, “I will stick to the truth tonight. The first hard truth, and this was hard for me, I gotta admit this, but we’ve looked at it every which way. And I think it is true that we did not achieve the surprise that we wanted to deliver tonight.”
In a similar move, on Jan. 21, DeSantis dropped out of the election and endorsed Trump as the Republican nominee for president. In his speech, DeSantis said, “It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance. I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee and I will honor that pledge. He has my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”
With these recent changes, Trump and Haley are battling to become the Republican nominee. Haley’s campaign has focused on attacking Trump’s actions in relation to the Jan. 6 insurrection and has repeatedly claimed that Biden won the 2020 election, which has resulted in criticism from both Republican extremists and Trump supporters. As for the traditional areas like economic, social and foreign policy, Haley has cemented herself as a staunch conservative.
On college campuses, younger voters are anticipating the general election and its impact with much uncertainty. With the Institute being in a swing state like Georgia, it is unclear what role the state will have in the next presidential election at the end of the year.
For T.J. Middlebrooks, fourth-year BA, the results of the Iowa caucuses were not surprising.
“President Trump’s convincing win was expected, but it was still staggering just how convincingly he won Iowa. As someone who has been casually following each candidate, it seemed as though DeSantis, Haley and Ramaswamy had more momentum than the final vote tally showed,” conservative-leaning Middlebrooks said.
However, Middlebrooks was not shocked by Ramaswamy’s endorsement of Trump.
“Mr. Ramaswamy suspending his campaign to endorse former President Trump was rather unsurprising. While he proposed a few new policy ideas, his ‘America First’ campaign predicated on ‘truth’ largely situated him as a younger Trump-conservative. What was surprising, however, was the timing of his dropping out. I was admittedly somewhat shocked to see his immediate withdrawal after such a hard-fought campaign, even with his poor caucus results. With Governor DeSantis following suit, it will be interesting to see if Nikki Haley can really compete with President Trump in a two-candidate race,” Middlebrooks said.
For left-leaning students on campus, the Iowa caucuses cemented the reality that Trump might be the next Republican nominee for president and will likely run against the incumbent, President Joe Biden.
“I mean, it is natural for presidents to run for re-election but the sentiment among my friends and peers is that we wish we could vote for candidates that were a bit younger,” said Noor Jaleel, fourth-year PUBP. “We do not feel connected with the current candidates because they have completely different priorities and are disconnected with America’s youth.”
As per her reaction to the Iowa caucus results, Jaleel said, “No shock there. Everyone knew Donald Trump would win that, seeing as his followers have been campaigning since 2020 for this.”
Despite differences of opinions across the parties, both Jaleel and Middlebrooks agreed on the most important issues on the ballot this election year —
inflation and foreign policy.
“As a graduate this May, I am seeing firsthand the effects of a difficult job market and rising inflation. In my early career years, I would like to avoid economic uncertainty as much as possible with a stable and, hopefully, improving national economy. Additionally, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to immigration to relations with China, our next president should be prepared to address the many foreign issues and America’s role within such global conflicts,” Middlebrooks said.
Echoing his sentiments, Jaleel said, “[The most important issue] for me is inflation. Everything is incredibly expensive from rent to groceries to medicine. People can hardly afford to live with the wages they get now. Also, foreign affairs regarding Ukraine and Russia, along with Palestine and Israel, will be important issues on the ballot.”
The New Hampshire primaries happened on Jan. 23, and Haley cemented herself as a serious contender for the nomination by scoring 43.3% of the vote, a large increase from Iowa, in comparison to Trump maintaining the lead with 54.4% of the vote.
With many more primary elections to go, only time will tell how Haley’s campaign fares in relation to Trump’s in a two-candidate bid for the Republican nomination.