Light Wave


Trump dominance tested as Republican rivals circle in key states

By Jake Beardslee · November 27, 2023

In brief…

  • Trump still leads polls but could face tight races in early states like Iowa
  • Haley and DeSantis aim to peel off Trump supporters by praising but questioning him
  • Haley looks for breakthrough in New Hampshire, heads to South Carolina showdown
  • Rivals argue anti-Trump vote too fractured to unite behind alternative candidate
  • Increased engagement raises stakes for candidates facing more voter scrutiny
The 2024 Republican presidential primary heads toward a dramatic final stretch, with Trump backed into unexpectedly tight races in early states as Haley positioning herself as his foremost rival and alternative.  U.S. Mission to the United Nations/Wikimedia

There are only 49 days left until the Iowa presidential caucuses mark the start of the 2024 Republican primary voting. The race for the GOP nomination is barreling toward a dramatic finale, with former President Donald Trump still the clear front-runner looking to claim the nomination for a third straight time and set up a possible repeat race against President Biden in the 2024 general election.

Trump remains the leader in voter surveys, but his team quietly worries Iowa’s caucus could bring an upset. DeSantis seems to have a smaller margin of error and is committing major efforts in Iowa, while Haley believes New Hampshire better suits her since independent voters participate there. Both Haley and DeSantis portray themselves as Trumpist conservatives, while contending Trump is outdated and would struggle in the 2024 general election.

The stakes appear greater for Republicans with Biden hampered by weak polls, age worries, and Democratic Party divisions. Heightened voter interest in early states means the GOP hopefuls will undergo more examination. Haley has made large investments in Iowa and New Hampshire advertising, spending $10 million recently. Sensing momentum from endorsements by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and activist Bob Vander Plaats, DeSantis has centered his focus on Iowa by shifting more staff there. Despite leading in the polls, Trump himself has held relatively few rallies and skipped all debates completely.

Haley points to her rise to second behind Trump as reason for other candidates to withdraw and make way for her head-to-head clash with Trump in South Carolina. However, Chris Christie disputes the idea of a unified anti-Trump bloc that could coalesce around one contender.