By Tim Reid, Nathan Layne and Gabriella Borter

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – Republican candidates trying to stop Donald Trump from being the party’s White House nominee shift to New Hampshire on Tuesday, a week ahead of its nominating contest, after the ex-president scored a record win in Iowa.

Trump took over half the votes in the Iowa contest on Monday, propelling him toward what looks set to be a close and acrimonious election campaign against Biden, a Democrat.

The two rivals have dramatically different policies on a range of key issues, from relations with NATO allies abroad to economic and tax policies, abortion rights and immigration at home.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, 45, finished well behind Trump in second place in Iowa, edging out former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, 51, into third.

Haley, who has previously spoken of how voters in New Hampshire can “correct” the Iowa result, is polling second to Trump in the state, with DeSantis far behind.

“Underestimate me, because that’s always fun. I love you Iowa, but we’re on to New Hampshire,” Haley told supporters on Monday night.

The northeastern state is well-known for its relatively moderate, libertarian-minded brand of Republicanism.

Moreover, the primary contest in New Hampshire is “semi-open,” meaning voters that are not registered with any party can participate, which can reward candidates perceived to be centrists.

Trying to take advantage, Haley has campaigned heavily in New Hampshire while DeSantis bet heavily on Iowa.

Haley was to hold a rally in northern New Hampshire on Tuesday with the state governor, Chris Sununu, who has endorsed her. DeSantis is set to hold a town hall event and Trump will deliver remarks at a country club in the southeast.

Trump, 77, is the only current or ex-U.S. president to be charged with criminal activity, but he won by an unprecedented margin for an Iowa Republican contest, strengthening his case that his nomination is a foregone conclusion given his massive lead in national polls.

He won 51% support, DeSantis 21% and Haley 19%, with 99% of the expected vote tallied, according to Edison Research. That victory margin far surpassed the previous record of 12.8 percentage points for Bob Dole in 1988.

Trump is hoping to fast-track the normally months-long Republican selection process with a series of convincing early primary wins to force out his rivals.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy ended his bid after winning just under 8% of the vote on Monday, and he endorsed Trump.


Reacting to the Iowa result on X, Biden tried to frame the November election as a battle against “extreme MAGA Republicans,” a reference to Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, and urged supporters to donate to his re-election campaign.

Trump claims falsely that his 2020 election loss to Biden was due to widespread fraud and has vowed, if elected again, to punish his political enemies and introduce new tariffs on imports.

He has also vowed to end the Ukraine-Russia war in 24 hours, without saying how.

He has drawn criticism for increasingly authoritarian language, including comments that undocumented immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country.”

Still, his performance in Iowa showed his enduring popularity among Republican voters even after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters and his 91 criminal charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election, retaining classified documents and falsifying records over hush money payments to a porn star.

Trump has used his legal travails to fundraise and boost his support as he protests his innocence and says he is the victim of a “witch hunt.” He holds a 37-point lead among Republicans, according to the most recent nationwide Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Nearly two-thirds of Iowa caucus-goers embraced his false claims about voter fraud in 2020, saying they did not think Biden legitimately beat Trump.

More than 60% said Trump would still be fit to serve as president even if convicted of a crime.

Trump faces four prosecutions, setting up the unprecedented prospect of a president being convicted or even serving from behind bars, with the courts almost certainly weighing in at every stage.

“Absent a quick consolidation of the field, Trump appears to be on a fast track to the nomination,” said Jimmy Centers, an Iowa-based Republican strategist.

Still, both DeSantis and Haley vowed to press ahead.

“We’ve got our ticket punched out of Iowa!” DeSantis told supporters in West Des Moines on Monday.

But DeSantis’ campaign is in trouble and he risks funding problems going forward after failing to deliver a breakthrough performance in Iowa despite campaigning heavily there.

Iowans braved life-threatening temperatures to gather for the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus, as the 2024 presidential campaign officially got under way after months of debates and rallies.

“Trump is very narcissistic, he’s very cocky, but he’s going to get stuff done,” said Rita Stone, 53, a Trump backer who attended a caucus at a West Des Moines high school.

Read Reuters’ full U.S. election coverage here:

(Writing by Costas Pitas and Joey Ax; Editing by Kieran Murray and Mark Porter)

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