Twelve days. Not that we’re counting.
That’s how much time remains until Caucus Day in Iowa, where the first voting will usher in the 2024 presidential race when Republicans gather on Jan. 15 in school gyms, community centers, and churches across the state.
The Republican hopefuls seeking to topple former President Donald J. Trump for the party’s nomination have already spent tens of millions of dollars and months campaigning across Iowa. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has at least four events planned on Wednesday, and Vivek Ramaswamy, the wealthy entrepreneur running for office, is keeping up a breakneck pace while his poll numbers barely budge. Mr. Trump, with polling leads that seem insurmountable, has faced considerably less pressure to crisscross the state. But even Mr. Trump is headed to Northern Iowa for campaign events this week.
Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, has barnstormed Iowa and is battling Mr. DeSantis for second place. But she’ll be campaigning on Wednesday in New Hampshire, the next state to vote in the G.O.P. nominating contest and one where she is pinning her hopes.
But they are all staring straight up at Mr. Trump, who has maintained daunting double-digit leads in polls in Iowa, despite the 91 felony charges against him and after two states have barred him from their primary ballots after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
His campaign is seeking an overwhelming victory in Iowa to shut out his rivals before most Republicans get a chance to vote in the primaries. Ms. Haley and Mr. DeSantis, who remain far behind Mr. Trump in Iowa polls, look to be fiercely battling for second place.
Mr. Ramaswamy, who has brashly promised a surprise showing in the caucuses, is polling a distant fourth in Iowa, with less than 10 percent support. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the race’s staunchest Trump critic, has not campaigned in Iowa, and is polling in fifth place behind Mr. Ramaswamy, the race’s foremost Trump proponent. Mr. Christie has instead staked his candidacy on the New Hampshire primary.
Iowa is not a particularly valuable state to win in the presidential nomination process. The state awards very few delegates, and the victor there is not assured the party’s nomination. The last non-incumbent Republican presidential nominee to win the Iowa caucuses was George W. Bush in 2000.
Still, the state holds symbolic importance as the first votes cast in the nation. The results can point to signs of momentum, of which candidates are rising or falling as the contest moves to larger states.
But despite months of intense campaigning and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the race in Iowa has changed little from the summer, when the hopefuls were roaming the Iowa State Fair: Mr. Trump is still far and away the favorite.
One exception has been the rise of Ms. Haley, and the decline of Mr. DeSantis. (On Thursday, they will participate in dueling CNN town halls.) While Mr. DeSantis had been widely viewed as the clear No. 2 when he entered the race, Ms. Haley has caught up to him in the jockeying for second place.
That position is still far behind Mr. Trump, but observers are watching closely: A strong performance from either candidate could put pressure on the other to drop out and allow a stronger anti-Trump coalition to emerge.