UPDATE: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will finish a distant second place in the Iowa caucuses, networks projected late Monday night.
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley had hopes of a No. 2 finish as she eyed pulling off a surprise next week in New Hampshire.
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Speaking with supporters, DeSantis said tonight’ results showed that he “got a ticket punched out of the Hawkeye state.”
“The media was against us. They were writing our obituary months ago. They even called the election before people even got a chance to vote,” DeSantis told supporters, referring to the networks’ early call of the caucuses for Donald Trump.
Despite her third place finish, Haley told supporters that “the pundits will analyze the results from every angle. We get that. But when you look at how we are doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, and beyond, I can safely say tonight Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race.”
She said that in New Hampshire, the “question will be very clear. Do you want more of the same, or do you want a new generation of conservative leaders?”
Haley’s reference to a “two person race” is based on the fact that DeSantis put his resources into Iowa yet has been in the single digits in New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, Vivek Ramaswamy, who placed fourth, said he was dropping out of the race and endorsing Trump.
The Iowa results were extra sweet for Trump. Not only did he have a blowout victory, but DeSantis denied Haley the second-place bragging rights in advance of the New Hampshire vote.
Republican strategist Mike Murphy wrote on Twitter, “Trump could not have gotten a better night out of Iowa. He wins big, his most lethal opponent gets squelched into third place, damping her momentum.”
PREVIOUSLY: Donald Trump took a victory lap in a speech in which he said that he said “that it is time now for everybody, for our country to come together, whether it is Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative, it would be so nice if we could come together and straighten out the world.”
His tone, following a resounding victory, was a contrast to his harsh and inflammatory rhetoric at rallies and on social media. He also put some focus on Joe Biden, his likely opponent if he wins the nomination. “This is the first because the big night is going to be in November when we take back our country,” he said.
As Trump went on, CNN cut away from his speech after about 10 minutes, while Fox News stayed with it. On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow said that the decision to not go to Trump’s speech live was “not out of spite. It is not a decision that we relish. It is a decision that we regularly revisit…but there is a cost to us as a news organization of knowingly broadcasting untrue things. That is a fundamental truth of our business.”
PREVIOUSLY: The turnout at the Iowa Republican caucuses was far below the last competitive race eight years ago.
Iowa Republican Party chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement that about citizens 100,000 participated, according to early results. That compares to 186,000 who participated in 2016.
PREVIOUSLY: CNN has been showing the public vote tabulation in caucus precincts in Iowa — and John King has pointed to the process as proof of election integrity.
“I just want to say this because more Republicans are watching tonight because it is a Republican caucus night,” King said. “Guess what? People with the same conviction and the same determination to get it right are the people counting the votes in Philadelphia and in Fulton County and in Maricopa, Arizona and in Detroit, Michigan, Wayne County, Michigan. … They’re Americans who show up to help with democracy.”
King, of course, was referring to Donald Trump’s unfounded claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. An NBC News Iowa entrance poll showed that just 6% of Trump voters believe that Joe Biden legitimately won the presidency in 2020.
“The distrust in American politics in the process, in the legitimacy of the process, is a cancer on American democracy,” King said. “So as Republicans watch this tonight, set aside anyone telling you, yeah do it right and the Democrats do it differently. If it is in a blue state they do it differently. It is just not true historically. There is zero evidence of that.”
PREVIOUSLY: After networks made an early call of the Iowa caucuses for Donald Trump, one of his main rivals Ron DeSantis released a statement blasting the media for “election interference.”
DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romano said in a statement, “It is absolutely outrageous that the media would participate in election interference by calling the race before tens of thousands of Iowans even had a chance to vote. The media is in the tank for Trump and this is the most egregious example yet.”
The focus for the rest of the night will be on Trump’s margin of victory and who comes in second — DeSantis or former UN ambassador Nikki Haley. Early returns show a tight race for that ranking.
Some of the networks relied on entrance polling data from the National Election Pool, which collects the data for CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC. According to a network source, there was enough information even at 8 p.m. ET to make a projection, but did not “until all of the caucusgoers were already required to be inside and the caucuses were underway.” Many of the caucuses were already over by 8:30 p.m. ET and the Iowa GOP already was reporting results, the source noted.
The networks and the AP have in the past projected Iowa winners at 8 p.m. ET when the polls shows that there would be an overwhelming winner, the source said.
On Fox News, anchor Bret Baier defended their projection and explained why the call was made so early.
“We have the Associated Press, we have the Fox News Voter Analysis, along with the Associated Press, this rolling poll of caucus-goers, as well as the raw total of votes coming in,” he said. “Once that was overwhelming on the analysis of that, we could make the call. In the caucuses, when the doors closed for the caucuses, that is when the official time is to be able to characterize the race. So that is how that develops that early. Again, there’s a lot of controversy around it because people were inside and obviously had their phones. But that is how the rules go for Iowa.”
Fox News’ Brit Hume doubted that the early call had an impact.
“The reason why people worry about calling these races too soon is that, in some places, people haven’t voted. That makes a lot of sense in a general election, where people walk in and cast their ballot and leave. If they had known ahead then they may decide to not even bother. But we are talking here about people who come out on a cold night together at a caucus site, the doors are closed, and nobody can get in, so the opportunity to vote remains. It’s hard to believe very many people would say, oh, my goodness, the race has been called, I’m going home. I don’t think so. The impact of it seems that the premise is doubtful.”
NewsNation did not call the race for Trump until 8:46 p.m. ET, with anchor Chris Cuomo telling viewers that “if you’re flipping around, you will see that other organizations are calling the caucuses already. That makes sense. However, it is not about who wins. That would have been a shocker if it were going any other way. It’s about, what is the margin?”
Cuomo said that the “margins will matter. And there’s a lot of caucusing yet to be done. At least the counting part and that’s the part that matters.”
PREVIOUSLY: Former President Donald Trump was the projected winner of Iowa’s Republican caucus, with networks calling the race well before voting had even concluded.
The race was called just over 30 minutes after the caucuses started. CNN called the caucus for Trump at around 8:31 p.m. ET, followed by Fox News and MSNBC. The Associated Press also called the race.
“This is the earliest I can ever remember calling such a thing,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper said.
Shortly before its projection, CNN actually had been at a caucus site in Clive, IA, where Trump was speaking to caucusgoers before voting even started. Dana Bash was joined by Kasie Hunt and Chris Wallace at the site to offer analysis.
Trump’s victory so early in the night signals a potential blowout victory, albeit the projections are based in part on entrance polling.
As actual results rolled in, pundits quickly turned to Trump’s margin of victory and on who finishes second, as former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. DeSantis battle over the leftovers.
NBC News had a special report on the results shortly after 8:30 p.m. ET. Correspondent Vaughn Hillyard noting Trump’s amassing of endorsement from Republican elected officials, said, “What you’re watching here is the Republican Party at large really solidifying their support of Donald Trump as somebody who could very well – the Trump campaign is making the case – by March 19 even, potentially hit the delegate count to become the presumptive nominee.”
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