With Joe Biden secure as the Democratic nominee, this year’s primary calendar is about one thing and one thing only: who will be his Republican challenger in the upcoming race to become the 47th president of the United States.
In the first stage of the nomination process, the Iowa caucus, which took place on Monday, Trump secured 51% of Republican support – an unprecedented victory for any race not involving a sitting president. Florida governor Ron DeSantis received 21% of votes, while Nikki Haley finished a disappointing third with 19%, but claimed she now had the momentum to challenge Trump. The reality, though, is that with a historical win tucked under his belt so early in the process, it seems unlikely that anybody else would be able to secure the nomination besides Trump.
In response to Trump’s triumph, US vice-president, Kamala Harris, tweeted, urging people to donate to the Biden-Harris campaign. ‘Trump just won the Iowa caucus,’ she wrote. ‘The same person who recently called the overturning of Roe v. Wade a “miracle” is one step closer to becoming the Republican nominee for president.’
If anybody was struggling to fully compute Trump’s grip on the the Republican party, the result of last night’s caucus is proof. Despite the lowest voter turnout in the Iowa caucus since 2000 — temperatures in the midwestern state hit lows of -30°C yesterday — Trump’s win has been considered a litmus test for his positioning as a potential nominee. This is a man whose supporters are so unwaveringly loyal that he won in Iowa, despite his refusal to participate in debates with Republican rivals and a seemingly less 'intense' campaign in Iowa than DeSantis or Haley ran (Trump made just 18 visits in 2023, while his rivals made dozens.)
At a speech marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day in South Carolina on Monday, which will host its contest on February 3, Harris warned that freedom in the country is under ‘profound threat’, and cited the supreme court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. America's supreme court were able to overturn the historical precedent in 2022, which enshrined a woman’s right to abortion, after being packed with Conservative-aligned judges under Trump’s government.
Indeed, it’s the already weakened rights of women under Trump, who has referred to various women as ‘dogs’, ‘bimbos’ and ‘lowlifes’, that is a cause for concern for many. With just over nine months to go until the US will cast its votes for president, women’s rights groups are scrambling with what a potential Trump win could mean for them amid the continuously ruptured fall-out from the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
After abortion clinics across the south and midwest were forced to shutter last year, patients overwhelmed the country’s remaining clinics. In the first year after Roe v. Wade’s demise, the average number of US abortions performed each month rose rather than fell. Abortion bans continued to cascade across the country last year, with near-total bans taking effect in Indiana, North Dakota and South Carolina. North Carolina and Nebraska, meanwhile, enacted laws to ban abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy. In total, 24 states or territories have now banned abortion before viability, or roughly 24 weeks of pregnancy, which would have been illegal under Roe.
In between celebrating in Iowa and heading to campaign rallies in New Hampshire, ahead of its contest on January 23, Trump is expected to appear in a New York courtroom for the start of a defamation damages trial brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of rape. Trump is also facing charges in Fulton County, Georgia for allegedly trying to steal the 2020 election, charges stemming from his handling of sensitive government documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago, conspiracy charges relating to the Capitol riot, and a pending civil fraud case in New York.
Of course, the real prize of a triumph in the Iowa caucus, and those in New Hampshire and South Carolina, is momentum. It’s eyeballs and it’s attention. Winning Iowa doesn’t necessarily confirm a win for the president — Biden finished fourth in the 2020 caucus — but it is a cumulative snowball effect, and for a man who has made clear his stance on women’s rights, votes for Trump are not only a very real, tangible possibility but a threat to the very freedoms women enjoy.
Writing in his book Fear: Trump in the White House, Bob Woodward quoted Trump as saying: ‘You've got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women. If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you're dead. … You've got to be strong.
'You've got to be aggressive. You've got to push back hard. You've got to deny anything that's said about you. Never admit.’
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