Iowa caucuses: What to know as Trump looks for big win in first Republican contest

Iowa is bundled up and ready to kick off the 2024 presidential campaign with its famed quirky caucus.

With bone-chilling cold gripping the state, former President Trump is aiming for a landslide win over rivals Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

Trump, who leads in polls with more than 50% support, hopes to eviscerate his opponents and head on to the tricky next contest in New Hampshire next Tuesday with the political wind at his back.

Iowa has a history of delivering major political upsets, but most political pundits say Trump’s grip on the GOP conservative base should help him deliver an expected triumph.

DeSantis has spent months campaigning in the Hawkeye State and has all but staked his campaign on a strong showing driven by backing from the state’s influential evangelical Christian conservative voting bloc.

But the Florida governor has been slumping in polls for months and slipped behind Haley in the final surveys before showtime.

Haley, who has been rising steadily in polls for months now, hopes to leapfrog DeSantis or at least come in a strong third, with her standing buoyed by support from relatively moderate suburban voters.

Haley’s strategy centers on riding a strong showing in Iowa into a virtual dead heat with Trump in New Hampshire, which has far more college-educated and independent-minded voters. That plan got a big boost last week when former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped out of the race, likely sending most of his Trump-opposing supporters into Haley’s camp.

After the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 23, there will be more than a month before South Carolina votes in the next major contest, giving Haley hope she can scramble the race.

Independents and even Democrats are permitted to take part in the Iowa contest, although they must change their registration to do so.

With no Democratic presidential contest, it remains to be seen if the GOP fight will attract some aisle-crossing voters who might be driven by the desire to vote against Trump.

Unlike a primary, caucus voters must show up at a set time to cast their ballots, which will be 8 p.m. Eastern time.

After candidates’ supporters make brief speeches, participants will cast votes by secret ballot.

There won’t be the odd drama of voters physically moving from one spot to another as Democrats did in some past Iowa contests.

The candidates will divvy up 40 delegates, just 1.6% of those who will vote for the eventual nominee at the Republican National Convention.

Democrats killed their Iowa nominating caucus as well as the New Hampshire primary in a shakeup of the party’s early voting state lineup, aiming to give more weight to more diverse states.

First results are expected from some of the state’s tiny rural precincts within minutes.

GOP officials voiced confidence that they will have full results sometime Monday night, which would be a sharp contrast from past contests in both parties that resulted in widespread chaos and unclear results for many hours or days.

One thing is for sure: It’s gonna be cold, even for Iowa in January, which will likely affect voter turnout.

With a nasty polar vortex taking aim at the nation’s heartland, forecasters predict temperatures will be below zero across the entire state at caucus time, with wind chills as low as 30 degrees below