Iowa, New Hampshire Cast First Votes

Over the past few weeks, voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have taken part in the first presidential primary elections for the 2024 election cycle. The Iowa caucuses are the very first contest of the year, but for the first time in decades, there would be no Democratic primary. Last year, the Democratic National Committee, or DNC, changed the rules for their primary process, allowing more diverse states like Nevada and South Carolina, which typically vote third and fourth, to the front of the line. Unless someone lives in Iowa, Wyoming, North Dakota, or Nevada, primaries are voted on a standard ballot with the party the voter is registered as. In those four states, voters fill school gymnasiums, town halls, and other venues to hear speeches from surrogates for each of the campaigns, then gather in groups to vote for a candidate. It’s a long process, where a voting site with a few hundred people may take two hours to cast their ballots.

Despite a once-in-a-decade blizzard, with temperatures across the state hovering around -30 degrees, more than 110,000 registered Republicans took place in the caucus. Former President Donald Trump, who has maintained a dominant polling lead among the other Republican candidates, placed first in Iowa, garnering 51% of the vote according to the AP. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucus, placed second, receiving 21.2% of the vote. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, now the sole challenger to Donald Trump, got 19.1% of the vote, and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who has since dropped out and endorsed Donald Trump, got 7.7% of the vote.

Jacky Bruno, the Chairman of the Monmouth University College Republicans travelled to Iowa to watch the caucus. In his view, “Iowa was quite frankly a slaughter. No matter what the candidates did or said throughout the weeks leading up to the caucus, Trump was going to dominate.”

According to an NBC News exit poll, the biggest issues for Iowa Republican voters include foreign policy, abortion, immigration, and the economy. When asked what he thought the biggest issues in the 2024 election would be, Bruno responded, “The response to the invasion at our southern border, economic issues, and social issues such as DEI and gender education curriculums in our schools [will be the biggest].”

One week after the Iowa caucuses, voters in New Hampshire would participate in the first-in-the-nation primary. While Iowa’s Democratic Party went along with the DNC rules change, New Hampshire Democrats defied the national party and held their election anyway. New Hampshire state law requires their primary be the very first in the nation, as it has been since 1916. Following the new DNC rules, President Biden said he would not appear on the New Hampshire ballot, instead recognizing South Carolina as the new first-in-the-nation state. New Hampshire Democrats held a write-in campaign for the president, urging Democratic primary voters to write in Biden’s name on their ballots. With that said, New Hampshire’s primary was set to be a major reflection. Nikki Haley, Trump’s sole rival in the Republican field, had been surging in the polls and was neck-in-neck with the former president in New Hampshire.

Roughly 425,000 New Hampshire voters went to the polls on Jan. 23. After the votes were counted in the Republican primary, Donald Trump was the victor, beating Haley by 11 points, 54.4% to 43.2%. according to the AP. Support for Trump is likely higher than the numbers suggest, as independents are allowed to vote in either primary, with many Democrats voting for Nikki Haley trying to deny Trump a victory. On the Democratic ticket, President Biden’s supporters’ write-in campaign was a success, with the incumbent president garnering roughly 2/3rds of the total vote according to the AP. Biden’s win was historic as he became the first write-in candidate in American history to ever win a presidential primary. Like Bruno, Monmouth University College Democrats Vice President Claire Gaston spoke on what she believes the top issues of 2024 will be, “The biggest issue for the 2024 cycle will be abortion, inflation, and democracy.” Gaston continued, “People need to vote and take part in democracy now more than ever before. Your vote matters in this election.”

Despite calls from the Republican National Committee, or RNC, and former President Trump, Nikki Haley was vowed to keep fighting on. “Haley doesn’t have a path [to the nomination],” Bruno expressed. “She’s losing in the only states she has a chance in.”

On Feb. 3, Democrats in South Carolina will vote in the primary, followed by Republicans on Feb. 23. Democrats in Nevada will head to the polls on Feb. 6, while Republicans vote just two days later, on Feb. 8. Despite being Governor of South Carolina, Haley is down double-digits to Trump in the polls. How this election season will continue to develop remains to be seen, and as Americans, we know we are in for an interesting time.