Updates from the Iowa Caucus

(Photo credit: CBS News)

On Jan. 15, 2024, 110,000 Iowans braved the snow, ice and freezing temperatures to vote in the Iowa Caucus. Temperatures were recorded as low as -10 degrees with wind chills as low as -40. This was just a mere 15% of the over 752,000 registered Republicans in the state of  Iowa. People initially anticipated a large turnout after a record attendance in the last GOP election cycle in 2016. Unfortunately, the combination of record-setting cold and a lack of enthusiasm for the candidates lead to such a low turnout.

There were four major candidates at the Iowa Caucus; former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Biotech Billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy. Trump ran away with the state, receiving over 50% of the vote, getting 20 delegates and winning all but one county. DeSantis received 21% of the vote, 2% more than Haley. They received nine and eight delegates respectively. Ramaswamy received approximately 8% of the vote and received only three delegates.

What are delegates, and why do they matter? A delegate is an individual who represents their state or community at their party’s nominating convention. They tend to be party insiders, activists or early supporters of certain presidential candidates. Republicans have what are called bound and unbound delegates. Bound delegates must vote for candidates based on results from their state’s primary or caucus. Unbound delegates are allowed to pledge support towards any candidate regardless of any election results. The Republican National Committee released a few weeks ago that their only unbound delegates are those from Guam, Montana, New Mexico and South Dakota.  

The RNC gives states four primary ways to distribute delegates:

  1. Proportional: Candidates receive delegates based on their share of the votes received in their primary or caucus. There is some sort of threshold that candidates must surpass in order to receive delegates (that threshold tends to be around 2% of the vote). RNC rules state that all states that hold contests before March 15 must use this method.
  2. Winner-Take-All: The candidate who receives the most votes in the primary or caucus wins every delegate. This can only happen for state contests held after March 15.
  3. Hybrid: Some states use a hybrid system of Majority-Take All. This means that the state will use Proportional voting unless one candidate receives over 50% of the vote. In that case, that candidate would receive all of the delegates. 
  4. Direct Election of Delegates: Delegates are elected directly by the voters

Following the tough performance, Ramaswamy dropped out of the 2024 presidential race and formally endorsed former President Trump. He vowed to carry on the “MAGA” movement, but struggled to gain traction or support away from Trump’s own campaign. Many say he came across as too much of a political novice and saw many of his policies as too extreme. These policies would have included shutting down the FBI, Department of Education and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well ending the birthright citizenship of American-born children of undocumented immigrants

DeSantis dropped out of the race on Sunday, Jan. 21 via X citing, “No clear victory path ahead.” He has also shifted his support towards endorsing former President Trump. He was polling at a mere 6% in New Hampshire, and similar numbers in other states. South Carolina Senator and former Presidential candidate Tim Scott, also pledged his allegiance to Trump last week.

Candidates have shifted their attention towards campaigning in New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday, Jan. 23’s New Hampshire Primary. DeSantis and Haley have both had to cancel events and rallies due to harsh weather conditions, prior to DeSantis suspending his campaign. Trump is currently at 60% in the polls over Haley’s 38%. Trump went up seven percentage points following Ramaswamy and DeSantis campaign suspension, while Haley went up five points.. 

Following New Hampshire, Trump and Haley will face off in Nevada and the Virgin Islands on Feb. 8, South Carolina on Feb. 24 and Michigan on Feb. 27. This will all be a lead up to March 5, also known as Super Tuesday. On Super Tuesday, 16 states and territories with 874 delegates in total will be on the line. That is over ⅓ of all delegates eligible all between primaries and caucuses in Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Texas. 

Most states use primaries, which is where voters go to assigned polling locations and cast their vote for the preferred candidate. At the end of the night, each precinct will simply report its totals, and a winner is determined. In a caucus, participants gather in a town-hall style meeting where issues are discussed and debated amongst political parties. Once voters align themselves with a candidate, delegates are tallied up. The candidates with the least amount of votes are eliminated and those voters are allowed to revote. Only Iowa, Nevada, Missouri, North Dakota and Wyoming use caucuses.

As a student, you are able to vote in the upcoming election in the State of Michigan if you are:

  1. 18 years old by the date of the election (by Feb. 24, 2024)
  2. A U.S. citizen
  3. A resident of the State of Michigan
  4. You are not currently serving a sentence in  jail or prison.

You can go to Michigan.gov for helpful tips on how students away from home are able to vote in the upcoming election.

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