Path to the Polls: What to expect from Monday’s Iowa caucuses

The GOP presidential hopefuls are giving their final pitches to Iowa voters in advance of what promises to be the coldest Iowa caucuses in history.

The latest Des Moines Register/NBC News Mediacom Iowa Poll shows nearly half of all likely Republican caucusgoers choose Donald Trump as their first choice with 48% of support. Nikki Haley is in second place with 20% and Ron DeSantis slipped 3 percentage points and now has 16%, according to the latest numbers.

That same poll indicates 68% of Iowans have made up their minds as to which candidate they support.

Some political analysts believe that if the Florida governor loses in Iowa, he’ll drop out of the race. Something DeSantis denies.

“No candidate is going to go out before an election and go, ‘If the people of Iowa don’t do right by me, my campaign is over,’” said Dr. Daniel Cronrath, a political science professor at Florida State College Jacksonville. “Of course, he’s not.

“They’re going to say, ‘If we have a setback in Iowa, we have a path moving forward. We have this kind of investment in this state. We have this kind of infrastructure in this state.’ You’re never going to come out upfront and say, ’Hey, by the way, if my campaign has a disappointing night, it’s done.’ In reality, however, we know that will be the case,” said Cronrath.

On “Vote 2024: Path to the Polls,” the new streaming show on News4Jax+,  Cronrath also discussed the different dynamics between voters in the Iowa caucuses and the upcoming New Hampshire primary.

REPLAY: Newly launched News4JAX podcast ‘Vote 2024: Path to the Polls’

“When you look at the Iowa caucuses, there is a Democratic side and a Republican side,” Cronrath said. “That is a core-based election. In order to go at 7 o’clock CST with one opportunity to vote, if you don’t arrive on time and the doors are closed, you can’t. There’s no eight days of early voting like we have in Florida. You must be there. That’s the caucus environment,” he said.

“New Hampshire is an open primary. If you are a registered Independent, Democrat or Republican, you can walk in on primary day in New Hampshire and be a lifelong Democrat and say, ‘Today, I’d like the Republican ballot, please.’ Because maybe you’re a Democrat who would like to thwart Donald Trump in his reelection campaign. You could go in as a lifelong Democrat and vote for Nikki Haley or Vivek Ramaswamy. You have that ability. Very different,” said Cronrath.

Ultimately, winning the Iowa caucuses means just winning one battle. Only three presidents since 1972 won their Iowa caucuses when the races were contested: Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. Democrat Barack Obama won in 2008 as well as Republican George W. Bush in 2000.

There are a few Iowa losers who went on to win. Ronald Reagan went on to the White House in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Donald Trump in 2016.

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