The latest Iowa survey conducted by legendary Hawkeye State pollster J. Ann Selzer holds two key takeaways: Donald Trump is holding steady in the first-in-the-nation caucus state while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is losing significant ground to former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Here are the top lines from the Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll of likely Republican caucus-goers released Monday:
- Donald Trump: 43%
- Ron DeSantis: 16%
- Nikki Haley: 16%
- Tim Scott: 7%
- Vivek Ramaswamy: 4%
- Chris Christie: 4%
So why should Democrats and democracy lovers everywhere care about a single poll—even a Selzer poll—if Trump continues to dominate the field in national and early-state surveys? Because if the Republican Party appears destined to nominate Trump, the best-case scenario would be for him to face a skilled foe in the Republican primary who can spend several months reminding soft Republicans and pro-democracy swing voters how much they despise Trump and the threat he poses to democracy both at home and abroad.
So far, Haley, not DeSantis, appears to be the only Trump alternative with a path to winnowing the field down to a two-person race. The reason is simple: Haley has overtaken DeSantis for second place in both New Hampshire and South Carolina, and any Trump alternative will need to consolidate the field as quickly as possible coming out of Iowa.
But Iowa has remained Haley's weak spot among the early states, with DeSantis managing to maintain a solid second-place slot—until now. In the latest Iowa Poll, however, DeSantis shed 3 percentage points since garnering 19% in the same poll in August, while Haley gained 10 points since her 6% showing two months ago.
This is good news for anyone concerned about safeguarding American democracy against Trump’s authoritarian impulses. Barring some completely unexpected event, Haley has a next-to-zero chance of actually overtaking Trump, whose MAGA faithful are practically unreachable.
But Haley's oratory skills, foreign policy experience, and pre-MAGA credentials render her much better equipped than DeSantis to remind sane Americans—some of whom aren't excited about voting for President Joe Biden in 2024—why Trump remains an existential threat to democracy around the globe.