Trump Humiliated the Republican Field in Iowa (Especially Vivek Ramaswamy)

On Monday night, Ramaswamy placed fourth in the caucus and then dropped out while his campaign team played “High Hopes” at an empty venue.

Trump Humiliated the Republican Field in Iowa (Especially Vivek Ramaswamy)
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Former President Donald Trump predictably ran away with the Iowa caucus on Monday night, winning a majority of votes (51%) and beating his closest competitor, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by about 30 points. (For some context, before Monday, the largest margin an Iowa caucus winner has ever defeated their opponent by is 12%.) It’s a reminder that this is what the race for the 2024 Republican nomination has always been: competition for second place and for who can manage to walk away with as much of their dignity intact as possible. Vivek Ramaswamy, the now-former Republican presidential candidate and wannabe right-wing wunderkind, decisively lost that race on Monday.

Ramaswamy’s closing message to Iowa voters before getting blown out in a distant fourth place was as pitiful as you’d expect: “There are two genders. And no, a man cannot become a woman. Iowa, I’m asking for your vote tonight.” That was his last tweet minutes before the caucuses began. Hours later, after a predictably poor showing, he dropped out and endorsed Trump. Since both gaining and losing significant momentum over the summer and fall, Ramaswamy has relied on bizarre stunts and talking points—for example, bribing Iowa frat bros with free beer at his events and denying the veracity of abysmal polling by claiming his supporters simply weren’t being polled. Welp, it looks like they weren’t polled because they don’t exist!

Trump can’t really be blamed for Ramaswamy’s humiliation: It was Ramaswamy’s choice, after all, to host a caucus afterparty in Des Moines and play the track “High Hopes”—once synonymous with Pete Buttigieg’s campaign—at the empty venue. People run for president, drop out, and move on to bigger and better things all the time, but it’s admittedly pretty hard to picture a failed political candidate coming back from “High Hopes” at an empty party.

Overall, the Iowa caucus were a strange affair. There was a polar vortex that dropped temperatures below zero and, according to The Hill, possibly made it the coldest caucus day in history. And despite Trump’s resounding victory, at least one poll indicated a potential warning sign: About a third of Iowa Republicans said Trump would be unfit to serve as president if convicted of a crime—though, by contrast, about two-thirds said he would still be fit if convicted. Another interesting poll by CNN showed that 44% of Trump’s voters in Iowa oppose a national abortion ban. So, Trump is certainly an odd choice for them since, just last week, he bragged, “[For] 54 years, [Republicans] were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated, and I did it. And I’m proud to have done it.” We’ll see how his language about abortion bans fluctuates as Republican voters continue to offer conflicting signals on whether or not they want a national ban.

At his Monday night victory speech, Trump characteristically offered up some “alternative facts” declaring, “This is the third time we’ve won, but this is the biggest win,” even though he lost to Ted Cruz in 2016. (At the time, in a classic case of foreshadowing, he blamed his 2016 loss on unspecified fraud and demanded “a new election.”) Slightly less characteristically, Trump offered vaguely kind words to DeSantis and Haley, saying that they “both did very well” and that the entire Republican field had “a good time together” touring the state.

As for DeSantis and Haley’s paths forward after Iowa as Trump’s main competitors—which is using the word “competitor” very loosely—I don’t really see how either of them get the nomination unless Trump is imminently arrested and jailed. Pundits have noted that DeSantis’ second-place finish in Iowa isn’t bad but New Hampshire, where he’s currently polling third, isn’t looking great for him. Nor is the state after that, Haley’s home state of South Carolina. And while Haley is expected to perform decently in these states, it’s not really clear what path she has either.

Of course, these bleak prospects haven’t stopped DeSantis from robotically performing optimism: “You helped us get a ticket punched out of the Hawkeye State,” he said Monday night after placing second. “We have a lot of work to do, but I can tell you this: As the next President of the United States, I am going to get the job done for this country.” Haley, meanwhile, performed her usual song and dance calling for a “new generational leader” and repeated that “you don’t defeat Democrat chaos with Republican chaos.” She’s also since refused to debate anyone but Trump—who’s thus far refused to participate in Republican debates—or President Biden, apparently dissatisfied with DeSantis as a sparring partner.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Busting your ass like this for second place is frankly insane person behavior, all the more so when it’s unclear whether finishing in second place will even translate to anything. I highly doubt either of these two will be chosen as Trump’s running mate given everything he’s said about them. Imagine fighting tooth-and-nail to come in second, just for Ramaswamy to be tapped as Veep over you. So, the question remains: What is any of this for???

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