How Joe Biden Won The Iowa Republican Caucus

How Joe Biden Won The Iowa Republican Caucus

Joe Biden in Iowa during 2020 campaign

Donald Trump’s win in the Iowa caucus on Monday night was described as a “landslide” (CNN); “sweeping” (New York Times); “dominant” (BBC), “dominates” (ABC News); “runaway” (Time); “commanding” (AP); “resounding” (Reuters); and so on.

You would think that Trump walked out of Iowa with a huge majority of delegates to the Republican National Convention, which is what the caucuses actually produce. Take a guess at how many delegates Donald Trump won last night? With 51 percent of the vote, he won twenty. Take a guess how many delegates are not pledged to Donald Trump after last night’s vote? With 49 percent of the vote going to other candidates on the Iowa ballot, that number is also twenty -- DeSantis won nine, Haley won eight, and Ramaswamy won three.

According to figures from the New York Times, a total of 110,298 Iowa Republicans turned out to vote in sub-zero temperatures, with 56,260 votes going to Trump and 54,038 going to other candidates. Another way of saying that is, 49 percent of the vote went to not-Trump.

Where it gets interesting is who those non-Trump voters are. In a poll of likely caucus-goers conducted by the Des Moines Register in conjunction with NBC News just before the vote, 48 percent gave Donald Trump as their first choice at the caucus they planned to attend. That number tracks fairly closely to Trump’s final vote total of 51 percent. Eleven percent of those likely caucus voters told pollsters that if Donald Trump ends up being the Republican Party nominee, they will vote for Joe Biden. Using last night’s vote totals, that is 12,132. In the same poll of likely caucus-goers, 20 percent said they planned to vote for Nikki Haley. Stunningly, among Haley’s 20 percent of the caucus voters, 43 percent said that if Trump is the Republican Party’s nominee in November, they will vote for Joe Biden. That is an incredible number when you consider that these are Republican voters.

It's important to remember that these numbers are unlikely to include typical Biden voters, who tend to be less white, more urban, and younger in age. In the state of Iowa, folks, when you talk about Republican voters, you are talking about some of the most rural, evangelical, Caucasian, and older voters in the whole country. According to figures from the Wall Street Journal, 35 percent of Iowa caucus voters last night were between 45 and 64 years old, and 31 percent were over 65. Ninety-seven percent were white, one percent were Hispanic, and zero percent were Black or Asian. Sixty-three percent of Iowa caucus-goers had not graduated from college. Seventy-two percent described themselves as either somewhat or very conservative. Forty-six percent described themselves as “white evangelical/white born-again Christians.” Sixty-one percent said they had at least one gun in their household.

According to exit polls by NBC News, 61 percent of those voting in the Republican caucus last night in Iowa said they would favor a national ban on abortions. According to NBC, “Trump won a majority (55 percent) of voters who favor an abortion ban.”

Let’s see…according to the latest poll by the Pew Research Center, fully 61 percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. According to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, “73 percent of all U.S. adults, including 58 percent of those in states with the strictest bans, believe abortion should be allowed at six weeks of pregnancy.” The PBS News Hour interpreted those numbers to mean that “Few U.S. adults support full abortion bans, even in states that have them.”

As Donald Trump famously bragged to a Fox News town hall in New Hampshire last week, “For fifty-four years they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated, and I did it, and I’m proud to have done it.” Well, that worked for him in Iowa among old conservative Christians. He got 55 percent of voters in that state who favor a total ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest. He’s got the felon vote, too. According to the Edison Research poll of voters in the Iowa caucus last night, 65 percent said Trump would still be fit to be president if he is convicted of a crime. Only 31 percent said he would be unfit.

So where do the results of the Iowa caucus leave us? Donald Trump won 51 percent of the vote of people who are old, white, rural, and evangelical Christians. But among the same people, he lost 49 percent of the vote to people like Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy. According to Pew, about 24 percent of American adults describe themselves as evangelical Christians, so he’s got at least 12 percent of American adults who are conservative Christians.

The New York Times headlined its story on the Iowa results by calling “Trump’s ties to his voters…the most durable force in American politics.” The operative word in that analysis is “his voters.” There were just over 110,000 Republicans who turned out for the Iowa caucus. Nearly half of them weren’t his. What does that tell you about Trump’s “ties” to his voters? It tells me that the man who supposedly controls the entire Republican Party may have a stranglehold on Republicans in the House of Representatives, he may control the estimated 25 percent of Republicans who describe themselves as MAGA, but when it gets down to voters in one of the states every political pundit sees as favorable to him, Donald Trump could not convince nearly 50 percent of them to vote for him.

I’m telling you: they must have been jumping up and down in the halls of the White House last night when the Iowa results came in.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.


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