Capital Clicks

Trump, holding wide lead in latest caucus poll, returns to Iowa Saturday

By: - September 9, 2023 9:10 am

Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters in a campaign visit to Council Bluffs on July 7, 2023. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Former President Donald Trump was headed Saturday to Iowa, where a new poll shows no other candidates have neared his large lead among likely GOP caucusgoers.

Trump was scheduled to make an appearance this afternoon at Iowa State University in Ames, where tens of thousands are gathered for the Iowa-Iowa State football game. He rallied supporters Friday night in neighboring South Dakota.

In the new Iowa State University/Civiqs poll, more than half — 51% — of Republican and independent poll respondents planning to attend the Iowa Republican caucuses said Trump is their top choice for the Jan. 15, 2024 contest.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis trailed in second at 14%, followed by former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley at 10% and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy with 9% as top picks of GOP caucusgoers.

Dave Peterson, an ISU political science professor, said the poll shows the race is split into three tiers — Trump, a “small second tier” of candidates Iowans are looking at as alternatives to the former president, and candidates who have not gained traction.

“Trump’s lead is strong, but it also might be something of a ceiling because most Iowans have strong opinions about him,” Peterson said in a statement.

The poll, conducted from Sept. 2-7 with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points for Iowa Republican caucusgoers, also polled respondents on which candidates they do not support. While 18% of likely GOP caucusgoers said they do not want Trump to win the nomination, more were opposed to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 32% and former Vice President Mike Pence at 20%.

The ISU findings showed a similar snapshot to the 2024 GOP race as the August Des Moines Register/Mediacom/NBC News Iowa Poll, where Trump was supported by 42% of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers with a 23 percentage point lead over DeSantis, his closest competitor.

Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition president Steve Scheffler said in a Friday “Iowa Press” interview that while Trump holds the lead for now, the candidates who won the Iowa caucuses in the last three Republican nominating cycles were not the candidates initially projected to win.

“It’s probably fair to say that Donald Trump has the inside track, but anything can happen,” Scheffler said. “… Putting in the hard work is certainly a big thing, you know, in terms of identifying your people and turning them out. So anything could happen at this point, I think.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.