Shortly after caucus sites closed, national media outlets declared Donald Trump the winner despite ongoing voting at some locations. Trump triumphed with 51% of the vote, surpassing the combined total of other candidates and dominating nearly all counties. His success was largely credited to robust support from evangelical Christians.
This marked a notable shift from Trump’s 2016 campaign in Iowa, where evangelicals initially favored Ted Cruz. Over the years, however, their support for Trump strengthened significantly, as observed by Jeff VanDerWerff, a political science professor at Northwestern College in Iowa.
Despite Trump spending less time in Iowa due to legal obligations, his evangelical base remained loyal. Entrance polls by CNN showed that a majority of white evangelicals in Iowa supported him, even considering him fit for the presidency despite potential legal convictions.
The results in Iowa suggest a strong momentum for Trump, overshadowing the significance of future primaries. The battle for second place was closely contested between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, with neither emerging as a clear alternative to Trump.
Trump’s 2024 campaign strategy differed from 2016, focusing more on surrogate-led events and rallies. His campaign confidently viewed his base as unshakable and any nomination challenges as disloyal.
Trump’s rallies often framed the election in spiritual terms, leading to some controversial interpretations of his role in religious and political spheres. This blending of Christian imagery with his campaign drew criticism from some faith leaders in Iowa but did not seem to significantly deter white evangelical voters.
As the primary process progresses to New Hampshire, Trump remains ahead in polls, despite Haley’s growing support among a more moderate electorate. The field of presidential candidates is narrowing, with Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy recently exiting the race, the latter endorsing Trump following his departure.
Christianity Today reports:
That’s a shift from the last time Trump ran in Iowa. The state’s evangelicals weren’t excited about the foul-mouthed real estate mogul in 2016 and favored Ted Cruz, viewing Trump as “the lesser of two evils” when paired against Hillary Clinton in the election, said Jeff VanDerWerff, a political science professor at Northwestern College, a Christian college in Orange City, Iowa.
“The thing that’s just been really fascinating to me over the last eight years,” VanDerWerff told Christianity Today, “has been this slow migration and now this real embrace, it seems, of Trump. That he’s become or is seen as this instrument of God.”
Early entrance polls from CNN found that 55 percent of white evangelical Christians said they were supporting Trump.
Despite subzero temperatures, supporters heeded Trump’s call to turn out: “You can’t sit home. If you’re sick as a dog, you say, ‘Darling, I gotta make it,’” Trump told a crowd at an Indianola rally Sunday. “Even if you vote and then pass away, it’s worth it, remember.”
This loyalty comes despite Trump spending less time in Iowa than his competition. His ground campaign was complicated by the former president’s legal troubles pulling him elsewhere. A week before the caucuses, he had an appearance in Washington, DC, for an appeals court hearing Tuesday and another court appearance in New York Thursday.
Two-thirds of white evangelicals voting in Iowa believe Trump would remain fit for the presidency even if convicted, according to entrance polls by CNN.
Monday’s results in Iowa give Trump a chance to say, “I’ve got all the support and momentum. The future primaries are kind of pointless at this point,” Daniel Bennett, department chair of political science at John Brown University, told CT. “He can say that, you know, this is what we thought it would be and other folks should rally behind him to beat [President] Joe Biden.”
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