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Expert: Republican nomination could set ‘new record’ for shortest time before nominee chosen

Crystal Graham
(© Evan El-Amin – shutterstock.com)

The Iowa Republican caucuses saw former President Donald Trump win decisively with more than half of caucus-goers’ votes.

GOP rivals Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley finished a distant second and third place.

Two Virginia Tech political experts weigh in on what the results mean for upcoming primaries including New Hampshire and the election as a whole.

“As they have in the past, the Iowa caucuses winnowed the field of contenders. Asa Hutchinson and Vivek Ramaswamy have joined former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in ending their bids,” said Virginia Tech political expert Karen Hult. “The caucuses underscored Trump’s continuing strength among Republican activists, at least temporarily revived a slumping DeSantis campaign and showed the limits on the breadth and depth of Haley’s appeal.”

In the runup to the Iowa caucuses, Haley had been projected to come in a distant second, and DeSantis had been predicted to drop out of the race if he came in third, as many in political circles pointed to his nearly empty campaign coffers as a reason he might step back. However, with his second-place win, DeSantis is still in the race, at least for now.

“Haley and DeSantis will need to do better than expected in New Hampshire in order to have any chance of staying in the race,” said Caitlin Jewitt, a political expert at Virginia Tech. “If they don’t perform well in New Hampshire, the question will become not if, but when they withdraw from the race. Trump could become the de facto nominee because all his challengers have dropped out or once he has secured 50 percent of the possible delegates.”

Independents may skew the results in New Hampshire because it is a primary state, and it’s primary is semi-open meaning both independents and registered Republicans may vote in the primary.

“Trump appears to lead in the polls there as well, though not by the margins one saw in Iowa,” Hult said. “Haley may well benefit from the support that Christie had in New Hampshire from more moderate Republicans and those who find the former president either too vulnerable in the general election or are worried about his apparent threat to representative democracy and constitutional norms.

Hult said it still appears “unlikely” that Haley or DeSantis will be able to overtake Trump for the nomination. Hult’s colleague at Virginia Tech agrees.

“In 2000, the Republican nomination was only competitive for 50 days,” Jewitt said. “It is quite possible that this year we’ll see a new record set for the shortest time a candidate becomes a presumptive nominee — excluding the years an incumbent president was running for re-election.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.