Iowa caucuses 2024: Trump projected to win, DeSantis 2nd

Iowa caucuses 2024: Trump projected to win, DeSantis 2nd

The first election of the 2024 presidential primaries is in the books, and former President Donald Trump was the big winner. ABC News projects that Trump finished first in the Iowa caucuses, about 30 percentage points ahead of second-place finisher Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is projected to finish third, while businessman Vivek Ramaswamy is projected to finish fourth. As a result, Ramaswamy has dropped out of the presidential race.

Throughout the night, 538 reporters broke down the results in Iowa in real time with live updates, analysis and commentary. Read our full live blog below.

Latest Developments

Jan 16, 12:20 AM

That’s a wrap!

That’s all from us for today. As of 12:30 a.m. Eastern, 95 percent of the expected vote is reporting. Trump leads with around 51 percent of the vote, followed by DeSantis with 21 percent, Haley with 19 percent and Ramaswamy with 8 percent.

To recap some of the key moments of the night: Trump’s win was projected only around 30 minutes into the caucuses; DeSantis kept his campaign alive with a respectable second-place showing; and Ramaswamy’s fourth-place result prompted him to exit the race and throw his support behind Trump.

We’ll have more analysis as to what it all means in coming days, and of course, we hope to see you back here next Tuesday as we do it all again in New Hampshire! Thanks for sticking with us.

—Tia Yang, 538

Jan 16, 12:18 AM

Final thought: Haley’s window is closing

Tonight’s Iowa caucuses didn’t hold many surprises. Trump was expected to win by a huge margin, and he did. DeSantis and Haley were expected to duke it out for second place, and they did. You could argue that DeSantis outpacing Haley was a bit of a surprise, given all the dooming around DeSantis’s campaign and Haley’s late momentum in the polls, but I don’t think the “Haley’s-in-second” conventional wisdom had really sunk in yet, so neither of those results felt out of place.

I will say, though, this wasn’t the best combination of events for Haley. She finished third, so she probably won’t get a huge boost leading into New Hampshire, a must-win state for her. And Ramaswamy’s withdrawal from the race could actually help Trump gain some ground there in the next few days. Trump was already very likely to win the nomination, but it’s really over if he wins New Hampshire — and that probably just got a little more likely.

—Nathaniel Rakich, 538

Jan 16, 12:17 AM

Final thoughts: Iowa unfolded as expected

The contest in Iowa played out as I expected it would, but of course the primary is not quite over. Anything could still happen, especially this year. But it does look like Trump will coast to the nomination despite all of the unprecedented baggage he brings with him. He's been too heavily a favorite among Republican voters, many of whom believe he actually won the 2020 election and should be president now. While it's true that most Americans seem blah about a 2016 rematch, it's also true that both parties' voters aren't lining up behind alternative candidates.

Of course, we'll all reconvene in about a week to see what happens in New Hampshire.

—Monica Potts, 538

Jan 16, 12:15 AM

Final thoughts: As good as it gets?

Other than his one-vote loss in Johnson County, it's hard to find much that went wrong for Trump tonight. He won a majority of the vote and carried pretty much every demographic category (especially ones that make up the bedrock of the GOP primary electorate). The most Trump-like candidate in the race, who was still siphoning off a chunk of MAGA votes, dropped out and endorsed him. His two main challengers effectively tied, denying either of them the momentum or comeback narrative they desperately sought in Iowa. And you have to imagine the deep-pocketed donors who flooded Iowa with tens of millions of dollars of pro-Haley and pro-DeSantis advertising have to be wondering about their return on investment.

The New Hampshire primary is in eight days and might well be the toughest contest for Trump of the entire primary process, so it's good for him he can approach it with a full head of steam. The window of opportunity for any non-Trump candidate to alter the course of this race, such that it was ever open, is rapidly closing.

—Jacob Rubashkin, Inside Elections

Jan 16, 12:12 AM

Final thought: Not much has changed

Donald Trump came into this race an overwhelming favorite for the GOP nomination, and he leaves it the same way. DeSantis and Haley remain in a close race for second place, but so far behind Trump that it doesn’t seem like either has a realistic path to claiming the nomination. The polls were extremely accurate, especially by Iowa standards, and if that holds up in future primary elections, barring any unforeseen circumstances we’re looking at a Trump-Biden rematch in November.
—Mary Radcliffe, 538

Jan 16, 12:10 AM

Final thoughts: Trump's night

Trump will win in nearly every county, the race was called super early, and the issues that brought Iowans out tonight were squarely in his wheelhouse, including the unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 race was stolen. This doesn't suggest there's a lot of room to mount a challenge, but DeSantis and Haley are both going to keep trying! But New Hampshire is a different animal, and that race is soon enough that narratives about Trump's dominance could crack a little. We'll be here for that one, too!

—Meredith Conroy, 538 contributor

Jan 16, 12:07 AM

Final thoughts!

With results projected and speeches given, we're closing in on the end. What are everyone's closing thoughts and takeaways for the evening?

Tia Yang, 538

Jan 16, 12:09 AM

Ramaswamy drops out and endorses Trump

Earlier tonight, Ramaswamy dropped out of the race following his fourth place Iowa finish and endorsed Trump. We've already noted how Ramaswamy was all-in in Iowa, traveling through the entire state twice. Ramaswamy had a brief moment in the sun earlier in the race, but that investment didn't really pay off. He urged his supporters to support Trump, but polls show he's already their number two choice. That could make a difference in New Hampshire, where Haley has been closing in on Trump's lead.

—Monica Potts, 538

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy attends his Iowa caucus night watch party after suspending his campaign in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 15, 2024.  (Sergio Flores/Reuters)
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy attends his Iowa caucus night watch party after suspending his campaign in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 15, 2024. (Sergio Flores/Reuters)

Jan 16, 12:04 AM

Turnout is down. Way down.

Around 109,000 votes have been counted in Iowa tonight, and ABC News's estimated expected vote is roughly 115,000. Should that be about the final total vote tally, that'll mean roughly 5 percent of the voting-eligible population participated in the Republican caucuses. That represents a dramatic drop from 2016, when 8 percent took part in the Republican caucuses (7.5 percent participated in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic caucuses). Even in 2012, 5.4 percent of the VEP voted in the GOP contest in Iowa, while Democrats set a record in 2008 when about 11 percent of the potential electorate in Iowa took part.

The subzero temperatures in Iowa likely played a part in why turnout fell, but the lack of a competitive race surely also diminished interest. The last time either party fell below 5 percent of the VEP in caucus turnout was in 2000, when both parties fell short. Democrats had an uncompetitive race between Al Gore and Bill Bradley (Gore won by 26 points) while Republicans had a closer contest, but one that George W. Bush still won by 10.5 points.

—Geoffrey Skelley, 538

Jan 16, 12:02 AM

Nikki Haley is not beating Biden by 17 points

Haley in her victory speech just now claimed she would beat Biden by 17 points in the general election, repeating one of her favorite lines of the campaign to emphasize her potential electability advantage over the other candidates. Haley is referencing her margin in one Wall Street Journal poll from last year — an outlier poll, to be sure. 538 calculated a preliminary general-election polling average today and found Haley up just 2.7 points versus Biden. That's a bigger margin than the one for her competitors — Trump is currently ahead of Biden by 1.8 points in our average, and DeSantis trails him by 1.2 — but a far cry from 17. This is a good reminder to ignore individual polls, especially when they disagree from others, and focus on the average.

—G. Elliott Morris, 538

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