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After victory at the GOP caucuses, Trump thanks the 'great people of Iowa'

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump won overwhelmingly in the Iowa caucuses, the first official voting of the 2024 presidential primary.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Trump captured just over half of the Republican vote. That was in line with months of Iowa opinion polls.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We want to thank the great people of Iowa. Thank you. We love you all.

(CHEERING)

MARTIN: While Trump ran away with it, the contest for second place was far closer, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 21% and former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley at 19%.

INSKEEP: OK, everybody was up late last night, so we're going to hear lots of gravelly voices this morning, beginning with the distinctive voice of NPR's Don Gonyea, who's in Des Moines. Don, good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

INSKEEP: How's the weather?

GONYEA: Eight below zero.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

GONYEA: But, you know, you get used to it (laughter).

INSKEEP: OK, OK, 8 below zero - and it was almost that cold last evening when people showed up at these caucus sites to vote. What does Trump's big margin tell you?

GONYEA: You know how when we see polls, we're always careful to say polls say - as we should. But sometimes the results come in and the quick - the really quick call last night affirmed the Iowa polls and confirmed that this was just Trump's night, and it put a big exclamation point on it. Again, that's despite the 91 criminal charges Trump faces. Republicans here clearly not bothered by that. And that cold weather - it does appear to have helped pull down turnout compared to the record year, 2016, when Trump was last on the ballot. But look, there's no sense here that greater turnout was going to change these numbers in any meaningful way.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about the runners-up, because there was much focus on that and some question about whether Nikki Haley would be second or Ron DeSantis would be second. We will note that by a narrow margin, Ron DeSantis is in second place. What do you take away from that?

GONYEA: You know, while it's true, being the winner in Iowa doesn't necessarily mean you go on to be the nominee over the years and years. This is clearly a much steeper comeback climb for Haley and DeSantis. In fact, it's a mountain, right? DeSantis finished second narrowly, and he needed that second place given all that he invested here. You can argue he needed a better second place than he got. But this gives him something to hang on to, to fight another day. Here's how he framed the result.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: Because of your support, in spite of all of that that they threw at us, everyone against us - we've got our ticket punched out of Iowa.

(CHEERING)

INSKEEP: Ticket punched, says DeSantis - what about Haley?

GONYEA: She's got to be a little disappointed, given a recent rise in polling that showed that second place was certainly possible, maybe even likely. But she was always thought to do better in the next state up, right? New Hampshire, where there are more independents and more moderate voters - those are more her voters. When she spoke last night, she tried to still set up a contrast with Trump, ignoring DeSantis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIKKI HALEY: And the question before Americans is now very clear - do you want more of the same...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: No.

HALEY: ...Or do you want a new generation of conservative leadership?

(CHEERING)

GONYEA: And, Steve, we should also add here that Vivek Ramaswamy finished in fourth place and when he met with his supporters, he ended his campaign last night, and he endorsed Trump. So those are more votes for Trump to pick up in New Hampshire and other states, because they were really kind of running in the same lane.

INSKEEP: Don, thanks as always for your insights. I hope you get some rest on the flight home.

GONYEA: Indeed. Thanks.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Don Gonyea. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.