Republican caucuses live updates: Voting kicks off statewide

After months of campaigning, the leadoff Republican presidential voting contest is underway.

Voters in Iowa are gathered at caucus sites across the state to register their preference for the 2024 GOP nominee. It is the coldest Iowa caucus date on record.

The winner is expected to get a boost heading into New Hampshire’s first−in−the−nation primary next week, but the results don’t always spell success for the rest of the campaign season. Still, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are hoping for a strong showing against former President Donald Trump, the presumed front−runner.

What to know

What to watch as voters weigh in on the first 2024 GOP contest

When will results be known? Here’s what to expect in the Iowa caucuses

Trump’s grip on the GOP is put to the test in Iowa

Who’s running for president? Here are the 2024 candidates

Feeling caucus confusion? Your guide to how Iowa works

How Iowa Republican caucusgoers see Haley and DeSantis

Among Iowa Republicans, Haley is something of an anti−Trump option, even though she was his U.N. ambassador.

She is the top candidate of GOP caucusgoers who say Trump did something illegal when it comes to at least one of the criminal cases against him, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 1,500 voters who said they planned to take part in Monday’s Republican caucuses in Iowa.

Among those who say they are caucusing for Haley, about 4 in 10 voted for Democrat Joe Biden over Trump in 2020.

Meanwhile, DeSantis performs best among the caucusgoers who are dissatisfied with Trump but say they would ultimately vote for him in the general election, according to AP VoteCast. DeSantis’ supporters are more likely than those for other candidates to say they think abortion should always be illegal.

He performs better than Haley does among those who describe themselves as conservative.

Most Iowa GOP caucusgoers back Trump’s MAGA movement

The majority of Iowa Republican caucusgoers believe in the need to “Make America Great Again,” a sign of how Trump and his political movement have transformed a state party that denied him a victory eight years ago.

That’s according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 1,500 voters who said they planned to take part in Monday’s Republican caucuses in Iowa. The survey was conducted by The Associated Press−NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The findings suggest that Trump is in a strong position as the caucuses began. He shows significant strength among urban, small town and rural communities. Trump also performs well with evangelical Christians and those without a college degree. One relative weakness for Trump comes in the suburbs, where only about 4 in 10 support him.

Coldest Iowa caucuses on record are now underway

DES MOINES — Iowa Republicans have gathered at caucus meetings across the state to pick their next GOP presidential nominee.

The coldest first−in−the−nation Iowa caucuses on record kicked off Monday night at minus−3 degrees Fahrenheit in the capital city, with the wind chill making it feel like minus−20, according to the National Weather Service.

In the 2016 GOP caucuses, the AP first reported results at 8:32 p.m. ET, or 32 minutes after the caucuses convened. The caucus night tabulation ended at 12:50 a.m. ET with 99.9% of total votes counted.

Meatball Ron? Day One Dic−Tater? Iowa restaurant gets in on caucus fun

DES MOINES — Zombie Burger rolled out a special menu in time for Iowa’s first−in−the−nation voting contest.

The quirky restaurant posted on its Instagram page that customers can “celebrate the circus with these featured shakes + ONE−DAY−ONLY burgers at Zombie Burger!”

The special on Jan. 12 was Mom−Aswamy’s Spaghetti burger, a smashed vegetarian meatball patty, fried spaghetti and marinara croquette with mozzarella in honor of Vivek Ramaswamy.

On Jan. 13, diners could nosh on Meatball Ron, a double smashed meatball patty with mozzarella, fried banana peppers, marinara and a “hidden” garlic bread lift — inspired by DeSantis.

The meal of the day for Jan. 14 was American History 101, featuring a double pimento cheese patty, pulled pork, pulled bacon, fried okra and Carolina Gold sauce. The Carolina Gold sauce was a giveaway for Haley.

And on caucus night itself, customers could dig into a Day One Dic−Tater, with Flamin’ Hot Cheeto orange kielbasa sausage, Jack cheese, tater rounds, housemade sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Trump recently vowed to only be a dictator on “day one” of his next term.

And throughout, diners had the choice of two special drinks: a Sleepy Joe shake or a Dark Brandon shake, both available with an alcohol option.

Haley wins over an undecided caucusgoer

NEWTON — Haley is making her case to some last−minute undecided caucusgoers — and winning over at least one.

During her third stop of a final pre−caucus push in PB’s Pub, Haley asked for a showing of hands from those who hadn’t yet made up their minds.

“We’ve got one guy,” she said, seeing Chris Varney raise his hand in the back.

After giving brief remarks and telling Iowans that “It’s go time," Varney got a chance to speak with Haley.

“OK, she got me,” Varney said, prompting cheers from other attendees.

Eric Trump predicts ‘great night’ for his father

DES MOINES — The former president’s son is calling it now: It will be a “great night” for Team Trump.

He told The Associated Press hours before Iowa’s kickoff caucuses: "Everywhere I show up, there’s hundreds and hundreds of people, and they’re all wearing the Make America Great Again hats and carrying American flags.”

He says, “I think we’re going to have a great night."

He says that he’s seen tremendous enthusiasm across the state for his father and that Republican voters are eager for a return to Trump’s policies.

Waiting for DeSantis but leaning toward other candidates

CEDAR RAPIDS — A few hours before the caucuses, Iowa Republican Steve Kessler sat in a sports bar awaiting an appearance by DeSantis, but he was still undecided about whom he would support.

“I like to take my time,” the 65−year−old retired electrical engineer said at Jerseys Pub & Grub.

But it wasn’t looking good for DeSantis.

“My heart is with Vivek because of his rambunctiousness," Kessler said. "But I’m tempted to vote for Nikki to show my anti−Trump feelings.”

Why not DeSantis? “He’s not that charismatic,” he said. “But I figured I should see him before I go to caucus.”

Kessler was headed straight from the DeSantis event to his caucus site in Coralville, about 30 miles south of Cedar Rapids.

Iowa GOP caucusgoers say no to the status quo

DES MOINES — Iowa GOP caucusgoers want sweeping changes to how the federal government is run, according to AP VoteCast.

About 3 in 10 say they are seeking a complete and total upheaval. An additional 6 in 10 caucusgoers say they want substantial changes.

Most caucusgoers trust Iowa elections, but about 4 in 10 are not too confident or not at all confident in the integrity of U.S. elections. Nearly 6 in 10 have little to no confidence in the U.S. legal system.

Most Iowa GOP caucusgoers are unbothered by charges against Trump

DES MOINES — The criminal charges against Trump have done little damage to his reputation among Republicans headed to Monday night’s Iowa caucuses, according to AP VoteCast.

About three−quarters of caucusgoers say the charges are political attempts to undermine him, rather than legitimate attempts to investigate important issues.

Still, about a quarter say Trump has done something illegal when it comes to at least one of the ongoing legal cases he’s facing: his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, his alleged attempts to interfere in the vote count in the 2020 presidential election or the discovery of classified documents at his Florida home that were supposed to be in government custody.

Top issues for Iowa GOP caucusgoers: Immigration, economy

DES MOINES — About 4 in 10 GOP caucusgoers say immigration is the most important issue facing the country, according to AP VoteCast.

About one−third said it was the economy. Fewer people named other priorities, including foreign policy, health care, abortion or energy.

AP VoteCast is a survey of more than 1,500 voters who said they planned to take part in Monday’s Republican caucuses in Iowa, conducted by The Associated Press−NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The vast majority – 7 in 10 – said immigrants were a negative for the country, an indication that they’re not only seeking more order on the U.S. southern border but major cuts on how many foreigners can come into the country.

42−year−old Iowan plans to caucus for the first time

FORT DODGE — Melanie Klaassen, 42, plans to participate in her first caucuses on Monday night.

She and her husband, Michael, were among an engaged crowd of Trump supporters at ShinyTop Brewing who gathered to see surrogates of the former president.

The farmers from Pomeroy supported Trump in 2016 but went to their first rally in 2020 out of “curiosity,” she said. They found camaraderie there with people from “all walks of life,” Melanie said, who had been stereotyped as “bad, backwards people.”

“We’ve always voted, but we didn’t care either way how it turned out,” she said. That’s changed since Trump. “It feels like our voices really matter more," she said.

‘The world is counting on Iowa,’ Kari Lake says

FORT DODGE — Dozens of Trump supporters are gathered at ShinyTop Brewing to get up close and personal with some of the former president’s best−known endorsers, including Reps. Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, as well as U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake of Arizona.

“I want to tell you how much the world is counting on Iowa tonight,” Lake told the crowd. She added: “What you’re going to do tonight is you’re going to help save this world."

Iowa voter wants to size up Haley before ca

ucuses

PELLA — Some voters are still waiting to get the right impression from candidates just hours before the caucuses.

Darla De Haan said Monday as she ate lunch at The Bread Board that she had Nikki Haley at the top of her list but wanted to hear from the candidate in person. Haley was set to appear later Monday afternoon at the Pella restaurant.

De Haan, a psychotherapist, said that she had not caucused in years but was looking forward to participating this time.

“For me, it’s really about character,” De Haan said. “I want to see people who have integrity, who keep their word. … I kind of get a sense when you’re around someone, if they’re going to do what they say.”

De Haan said she had not seen other 2024 candidates as they have campaigned through Iowa over the past year but was interested to hear what Haley had to say during her round of closing arguments to the state’s caucusgoers.

‘It’s caucus day. Get excited!’ Haley tells supporters

DES MOINES — Dozens of people packed into a diner near Drake University as they waited for Haley.

“It’s caucus day. Get excited!” Haley said to a crowd of several dozen, many of whom drank coffee from cups festooned with “Pick Nikki” stickers.

Speaking directly to those serving as caucus captains, Haley asked them to “speak from the heart” in their Monday night speeches.

The GOP candidate plans to make several stops in central Iowa ahead of Monday night’s votes, including making an appearance at a caucus location before heading to her campaign celebration.

Trump starts caucus day by trash−talking rivals

DES MOINES — Trump is stepping up his attacks against his rivals on the morning of Iowa’s kickoff caucuses.

On his Truth Social site, Trump is knocking Haley, his former U.N. ambassador, as “an unwanted Globalist” and calling her “weak on the Border."

Trump is also going after Vivek Ramaswamy, the tech entrepreneur who has run as a steward of his Make America Great Again movement.

“A vote for Vivek is a wasted vote,” Trump wrote in all caps. “I like Vivek, but he played it too ‘cute’ with us. Caucus tonight, vote for Donald J. Trump, build up the numbers!!!”

Trump spent much of the race praising Ramaswamy for saying nice things about him. But Trump turned on him this week after Ramaswamy posted a photo of himself posing with supporters wearing “Save Trump, vote Vivek” T−shirts.

The Associated Press

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