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Iowa caucuses: DeSantis celebrates second place after Trump wins

Iowa Republicans voted for their preferred nominee as the presidential race kicked off in the Midwest.
 
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a caucus night party in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday.
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a caucus night party in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday. [ ANDREW HARNIK | AP ]
Published Jan. 15|Updated Jan. 16

The official start of the presidential nominating process began in frigid Iowa Monday with lots at stake for Republican hopefuls like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Candidates spent one more day campaigning before Iowa Republicans voted for their preferred candidate — overwhelmingly former President Donald Trump. While Trump was expected to win from the start, DeSantis’ second-place finish could be seen as a modest victory for that campaign, locked in a battle with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to become Trump’s main challenger for the GOP presidential nomination.

11:40 p.m. DeSantis celebrates second place

DeSantis may have gotten second place, but he and his team celebrated it with an air of a victory Monday night. He took the stage in the hotel ballroom just after 10:30 p.m. for a quick but upbeat speech, telling the crowd that it was a win to “get our ticket punched out of the Hawkeye State.”

”As the next president of the United States, I am gonna get the job done for the country. I am not gonna make any excuses,” he said. “And I guarantee you this: I will not let you down.”

From the stage, he shook hands and grinned, while his wife, Casey DeSantis, gave high-fives. The crowd chanted, “Ron! Ron! Ron!”

Read more about what DeSantis’ second-place finish means here. — Emily L. Mahoney

11:37 p.m. Ramaswamy drops out, endorses Trump

Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said Monday that he is suspending his 2024 Republican presidential campaign after a disappointing finish in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses. Ramaswamy, 38, endorsed his rival, former President Donald Trump. He has previously called Trump the “best president of the 21st century” even as he tried to convince Republican voters that they should opt for “fresh legs” and “take our America First agenda to the next level.” — Associated Press

11:29 p.m. DeSantis finishes second, ahead of Haley

The Associated Press has determined that DeSantis will finish in a distant second in the Iowa caucuses, ahead of Haley and behind Trump. With an estimated 10% of ballots remaining to be counted, DeSantis leads Haley by approximately 2,300 votes, or about 2 percentage points. With votes reported in all but one of Iowa’s 99 counties, Haley isn’t doing well enough anywhere to catch DeSantis, based on the number of outstanding votes. — Associated Press

11:10 p.m. Oliva: ‘It borders on election interference’

People begin to crowd into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ watch party Monday in Iowa.
People begin to crowd into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ watch party Monday in Iowa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The drinks are flowing and the classic rock is playing at DeSantis’ caucus night watch party in West Des Moines. Former Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes was bundled up in the room after speaking at a caucus meeting at an elementary school in Des Moines. Oliva, who was one of DeSantis’ earliest supporters when he first ran for governor in 2018, said the result at that meeting was a tie between DeSantis and Trump. Oliva called news outlets calling the race for Trump early in the night “unnecessary and unfortunate.”

”It borders on election interference,” he said. Oliva said people were on their phones at the caucus meeting he was at and saw the news that Trump had won. “Of course it can have an effect.”

Other DeSantis campaign officials made similar public remarks earlier in the night. DeSantis camp spokesperson Andrew Romeo called the media’s handling of the call for Trump as the winner, “absolutely outrageous,” and DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier, speaking to NBC News, called it “appalling.” — Emily L. Mahoney and Christopher Spata

10:57 p.m. Trump speaks after winning Iowa caucuses

Trump began his remarks with a conciliatory tone, saying it’s time for the country to come together, and he offered a shout-out to DeSantis and Haley, whom he has skewered on the trail: “I want to congratulate Ron and Nikki for having a good time together,” he quipped.

10:42 p.m. Republicans mingle at DeSantis party

A supporter waits for Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to arrive to a caucus night watch party.
A supporter waits for Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to arrive to a caucus night watch party. [ CHARLIE NEIBERGALL | AP ]

Several high-profile Florida Republicans are mingling at the watch party, including state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, former Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Dane Eagle, former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Jose Oliva, Florida Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, and Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey. Asked how he’s feeling about DeSantis’ performance in Iowa, Ivey said he was upbeat and remained confident that the governor would pull off a second-place finish. He doesn’t plan to stick around for the final results to come in; Ivey says he’s heading back to his hotel room to get some rest before an early morning flight back to Florida. — Max Greenwood, Miami Herald

10:22 p.m. DeSantis and Haley awarded first delegates of 2024

The Associated Press has allocated 16 of Iowa’s 40 delegates to Trump and four delegates each to Haley and DeSantis. These two dozen delegates represent 60% of the state’s total. Delegates will cast their votes at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee this summer. The way delegates are awarded differs by state, and in Iowa, the delegates are awarded proportionally based on the statewide vote. There are no minimum thresholds candidates need to reach in order to win delegates in Iowa. As of 10:05 p.m. Eastern time, with nearly 40% of the expected vote counted, Trump is receiving a majority of the vote.

The AP will allocate the state’s remaining delegates as more of the vote is counted. — Associated Press

10:10 p.m. Attendees arriving for DeSantis watch party

The crowd at DeSantis’ watch party was scarce a little more than an hour after caucusing began, with the room filled mostly with press and a few DeSantis staffers hustling in and out. Outside the room, hotel staff were setting up hors d’oeuvres and prepping a bar for watch party attendees. An hour later, the watch party is starting to fill up as campaign volunteers and surrogates leave their caucus sites to watch the results come in. Among those spotted among the attendees: U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, who has been campaigning for DeSantis in Iowa over the weekend. The mood is somewhat pensive as “Footloose” plays over the loudspeakers. — Max Greenwood, Miami Herald

9:50 p.m. Turnout still ‘pretty good’ at one caucus site, despite freeze

Waukee residents walk into South Middle School during Caucus Night on Monday, Jan 15, 2024.
Waukee residents walk into South Middle School during Caucus Night on Monday, Jan 15, 2024. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

There’s been a lot of concern in recent days about whether the bitter cold will depress turnout. About 200 people came to South Middle School, which was slightly under what was expected but still “pretty good for this area,” said Ron Forsell, the precinct chairperson who led the meeting. Organizers sent the groups’ results to the state Republican Party while attendees filed out, walking into the night where the temperature was 7 degrees below zero — that was minus 28 with windchill.

After the meeting wrapped, school staff stacked the bleachers back up on the gym wall, leaving little trace of the tiny slice of history that happened here tonight. — Emily L. Mahoney

9:45 p.m. DeSantis final pitch to Iowa: You can count on me

While Trump, Haley and Ramaswamy spoke for themselves at caucuses in Clive, near Des Moines, DeSantis did so three hours away in Dubuque, near the Wisconsin and Illinois borders. DeSantis made his final pitch to voters at a middle school caucus site, speaking about the long, brutal fight that was the Iowa race.” When they’re coming at you, when they’re shooting at you, when the arrows are coming, that’s when you need a president to stand in the breach and fight back,” he said. “And you can count on me to do that.”

Only briefly did DeSantis get personal, talking about his military service, or his kids seeing snow for the first time in Iowa. Instead he rushed through his usual campaign talking points — Biden, the border, the budget — and promised to do for the nation what he’d done as governor. His Iowa campaign, he said, was only the beginning.”If you like what has been done in Iowa,” he said, “you are going to love what I do as the next President of the United States.” — Jay Cridlin

9:30 p.m. Trump super PAC calls on candidates to drop out

Alex Pfeiffer, a spokesperson for the main super political action committee supporting Donald Trump, released a statement after Trump’s win calling on other candidates to leave the race.

“The people of Iowa sent a clear message tonight,” it read. “Donald Trump will be the next Republican nominee for President. It’s now time to make him the next President of the United States. Joe Biden’s team just announced a massive war chest. Every dollar spent by President Trump’s primary losers is a dollar that could be fighting Joe Biden. Once the DC RINOs are finished crying in their cocktails over tonight’s results, it’s time for Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy to face reality and stop wasting time and resources.” — Christopher Spata

9:15 p.m. At one caucus site, a DeSantis supporter has hope

Iowa Republicans register at South Middle School in Waukee, Iowa which hosted precincts No. 5 and No. 6 on Monday.
Iowa Republicans register at South Middle School in Waukee, Iowa which hosted precincts No. 5 and No. 6 on Monday. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

At the South Middle School caucus meeting, the results are in. Two precincts meet here, so there were two groups that voted separately. On one side of the gym, Nikki Haley won with 33 votes (Trump got 28, DeSantis got 23). On the other side, Trump won with 39 votes (DeSantis got 24, Haley got 11). The slightly disparate result disappointed one Trump supporter but left a DeSantis campaign volunteer named Tim Grubb confident that a strong second was still possible for DeSantis tonight. To vote during the meeting, caucus-goers simply wrote a candidate’s name on a small piece of paper that was collected in a Hyvee paper grocery bag. The papers were taken out and counted by hand on a table in the gym in view of all the attendees. — Emily L. Mahoney

9:10 p.m. DeSantis spokesperson calls quick call for Trump ‘outrageous’

9:00 p.m. The question now: Who’s second in Iowa?

As expected, former President Donald Trump breezed to an early victory in the Iowa caucuses Monday night. The question now: Will Gov. Ron DeSantis come in second, or in third behind former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley? By 9 p.m., Trump had 54.2% of early returns, followed by Haley at 18.8% and DeSantis at 18%. Results from Iowa’s nearly 1,700 caucus precincts will keep coming in throughout the night.

DeSantis has staked his campaign on a relentless ground game in Iowa that saw him visit all 99 counties and pour tens of millions of dollars into the Hawkeye State. If he holds off Haley, he’ll affirm his standing as Republican voters’ current top alternative to Trump. Third-place finish could hasten calls for DeSantis to exit the race. Read more here. — Jay Cridlin and Emily L. Mahoney

8:34 p.m. Trump wins GOP presidential caucuses in Iowa

The Associated Press declared Trump the winner of the Iowa caucuses based on an analysis of early returns as well as results of AP VoteCast, a survey of voters who planned to caucus on Monday night. Both showed Trump with an insurmountable lead. Initial results from eight counties showed Trump with far more than half of the total votes counted as of 8:31 pm. ET, with the rest of the field trailing far behind. These counties include rural areas that are demographically and politically similar to a large number of counties that have yet to report. — Associated Press

8:30 p.m. Trump and Hutchinson wind up at same caucus site

There are hundreds of caucus sites in Iowa. But Trump, the presumed front-runner, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is barely registering in the polls, both ended up at the same caucus site. “We’re trusting you, Iowa, to get it right,” Hutchinson said, addressing several hundred voters at the Horizon Events Center in Clive. Trump was holding backstage as Hutchinson spoke. — Associated Press

8:15 p.m. Live Video: The 2024 Iowa caucuses are underway

The Associated Press is streaming live video from multiple sites around Iowa, as voters gather inside more than 750 schools, churches and community centers in Iowa to weigh in on the Republican campaign’s first contest of 2024. Former President Donald Trump is the overwhelming favorite, though he faces significant GOP challengers, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.

7:57 p.m. Moments from caucus time

We are at a caucus meeting at South Middle School in Waukee, a sprawling suburb outside Des Moines. A few hundred people are filing in from the frigid cold, some wearing swag supporting a candidate, like Trump hats or DeSantis buttons. The thawing attendees are taking their seats on the bleachers of the school gym, where the school basketball team was practicing just hours earlier. A solitary microphone sits on a stand in front of the bleachers, where advocates for each candidate will speak before voting begins. Each person has gotten a piece of paper where they will write the candidate of their choice. The meeting will begin in just a few minutes. — Emily L. Mahoney

6:40 p.m. Immigration over economy in Iowa

Iowa Republicans are headed to their state’s caucuses with a greater desire to focus on immigration than address the health of the U.S. economy – a possible sign that cultural fights might be eclipsing pocketbook issues as a motivator.

About 9 in 10 of those voting want an upheaval or substantial change in how the U.S. government operates, according to the AP VoteCast survey. Many expressed skepticism about the government’s legal system and the integrity of American elections, evidence of Donald Trump’s still-sizeable influence on the Republican Party.

About 4 in 10 GOP caucusgoers chose immigration as the most important issue facing the country. About one-third said it was the economy. Fewer people named other priorities, including foreign policy, health care, abortion or energy. The vast majority, about three-quarters, say immigrants are a negative for the country, an indication that caucusgoers are not only seeking more order on the U.S. southern border but major cuts on how many foreigners can come into the country. — Associated Press

5:55 p.m. DeSantis and Haley make the rounds

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign event today at Thunderbowl in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign event today at Thunderbowl in Council Bluffs, Iowa. [ NIKOS FRAZIER | AP ]
Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at PB's Pub in Newton, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at PB's Pub in Newton, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) [ CAROLYN KASTER | Associated Press ]
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, center, is escorted by security to his "Commit to Caucus" rally at Lion Bridge Brewing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Monday.
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, center, is escorted by security to his "Commit to Caucus" rally at Lion Bridge Brewing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Monday. [ SAVANNAH BLAKE | Associated Press ]

5:30 p.m. Gaetz, Greene and other Trump surrogates in Iowa

Dozens of Trump supporters gathered at ShinyTop Brewing in Fort Dodge, Iowa to get up close and personal with some of the former president’s best-known endorsers, including Reps. Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Florida’s Matt Gaetz, as well as U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake of Arizona. “I want to tell you how much the world is counting on Iowa tonight,” Lake told the crowd. She added: “What you’re going to do tonight is you’re going to help save this world.”

U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan, center left, and Matt Gaetz, center right, greet supporters of Donald Trump during a Team Trump event at ShinyTop Brewery, Monday in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan, center left, and Matt Gaetz, center right, greet supporters of Donald Trump during a Team Trump event at ShinyTop Brewery, Monday in Fort Dodge, Iowa. [ HYOSUB SHIN | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ]

Melanie Klaassen, 42, plans to participate in her first caucuses on Monday night. She and her husband, Michael, were among an engaged crowd of Trump supporters at ShinyTop Brewing who gathered to see surrogates of the former president. The farmers from Pomeroy supported Trump in 2016 but went to their first rally in 2020 out of “curiosity,” she said. They found camaraderie there with people from “all walks of life,” Melanie said, who had been stereotyped as “bad, backwards people.”

“We’ve always voted, but we didn’t care either way how it turned out,” she said. That’s changed since Trump. “It feels like our voices really matter more,” she said. — Associated Press

4:45 p.m. Candidates respond to Trump social attacks

After former president Donald Trump used his Truth Social account to lash out at his top Republican rivals in Iowa today, GOP hopeful Vivek Ramaswany and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley hit back. Trump wrote that “A vote for Vivek is a wasted vote. I like Vivek, but he played it too ‘cute’ with us.” Hours earlier he wrote, “Nikki Haley can never win in the General Election because she doesn’t have MAGA, and never will!.” Of DeSantis he wrote, “Ron DeSanctimonious, at least, is MAGA-Lite. Remember, I think MAGA is almost ALL of the Republican Party.”

Haley’s campaign later issued a statement reading, in part, “Donald Trump knows Nikki Haley is a strong conservative who he praises repeatedly for her toughness at the United Nations. Now that Nikki is surging and Trump is dropping, his campaign is flinging phony, contradictory attacks. Don’t believe the fake news from Trump world — they don’t believe it themselves.”

Ramaswany responded with a post on the social media site X, saying he respects Trump “immensely.” — Christopher Spata

3:05 p.m. Florida Republicans spotted in Iowa cold

Dozens of Florida Republican officials have descended upon Iowa in the final push before the caucuses. They include Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner.

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez posted on social media that she was door-knocking in the snow.

Several other Florida legislators and the heads of state agencies also traveled to support DeSantis, including acting Chief of Staff Alex Kelly, Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon and Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Jason Weida.

DeSantis’ mother, who lives in Dunedin, was also door-knocking over the weekend. — Allison Ross

2:30 p.m. DeSantis in Iowa speaks on contrast with Haley

DeSantis went on the air with News Nation’s Marni Hughes on Monday morning to talk about his campaign, Donald Trump declining to participate in debates and the differences between himself and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. He also commented on what it’s like for his three young Florida children in blizzard conditions. “They had never even seen snow before. ... Initially when they saw the snow they said they liked the snow better than Florida. Now that they’ve been caught up in the blizzard they said, ‘Daddy it’s too cold’.”

DeSantis also responded to a question about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio endorsing Trump on Sunday. — Christopher Spata

1:05 p.m. A look back to past caucuses

Polling in Iowa has shown Trump with a substantial lead, with DeSantis and Haley in a tight race for second place. The caucuses could cement Trump’s status as the overwhelming frontrunner, but they could also reveal opportunities for other candidates if he fails to meet expectations. For DeSantis and Haley, even if they don’t win outright, a strong second-place caucus performance could establish them as the leading alternative to Trump.

In both the 2020 and 2016 elections, the eventual winning candidate lost the nominating contest in Iowa.

Trump placed second in the 2016 Republican caucuses, receiving 24% of the vote compared to 28% for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Trump initially congratulated Cruz in a concession speech, but later said Cruz “stole” the election and demanded a revote.

Biden lost the nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, before winning South Carolina. The primary victory propelled him to the nomination and eventually the White House, and his administration has given a lot of attention to South Carolina this month, with the DNC skipping the caucus altogether to focus down south. — Associated Press and Lauren Peace

11:50 a.m. Meet Nikki Haley’s neighbor

It’s common for candidates to call in their cavalries for caucus night — that is, a huge number of surrogates who fan out to the roughly 1,700 caucus sites across the state to make sure there’s a person in every room trying to persuade Iowans to support that person.

For Gov. Ron DeSantis, those surrogates have been dozens of Florida lawmakers and state agency leaders. That fact shows how much sway he still has over the state’s political scene and has also led to some unusual visuals of Florida figures out on the road.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, for example, ditched his usual suit in favor of a camouflage hat and a heavy black coat, and joked that it would be quite different knocking on doors here compared to Hialeah. Florida Sen. Blaise Ingoglia stood before an army of reporters from around the world, telling them why DeSantis’ campaign strategy from Florida will also bring him success in Iowa.

At a Nikki Haley event, I met someone with a more personal connection to the candidate: her neighbor.

Nikki Haley rallies with supporters on Sunday, Jan 14, 2024, at the Country Lane Lodge in Adel, IA.
Nikki Haley rallies with supporters on Sunday, Jan 14, 2024, at the Country Lane Lodge in Adel, IA. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Katherine Brooks lives about 10 houses down from Haley in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and called Haley a “friend.” She said she and her husband moved to South Carolina right around the time that Haley supported removing the Confederate flag from the state Capitol. The move was in response to a 2015 racist shooting by a white supremacist at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, which left nine Black churchgoers dead.

To Brooks, who’s originally from New Orleans, the Confederate flag had always meant “the South and trees and black soil” — but Haley’s response helped bridge the divide and bring unity to a raw state, she said.

“The way she did it after the shooting in the Emanuel church was with such grace ... she made everyone calm,” Brooks said. “She’s a peacemaker.” — Emily L. Mahoney

11:20 a.m. DeSantis plans post-Iowa events in South Carolina, New Hampshire

Win or lose in Iowa tonight, DeSantis already has his next moves lined up.

The morning after his campaign’s caucus night party at the Sheraton West Des Moines, DeSantis will hop a plane and fly to South Carolina, where he has a meet-and-greet planned in Greenville at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. From there, he’ll fly to New Hampshire for a town hall in Claremont at 5:30 p.m.

New Hampshire’s primary is Jan. 23; South Carolina’s is Feb. 24.

Nikki Haley has been leading DeSantis in polls in both states. But he has said going from Iowa straight to South Carolina signals a belief that she’s vulnerable in her home state.

”The message is simple,” DeSantis told Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle Friday. “If you look at South Carolina, Nikki Haley was governor there, and I’ve got like five times more endorsements from state legislators, current and former, than she does, and that would be unthinkable for the opposite to happen in a place like Florida. And so she’s really out of step, I think, with South Carolina. We’re going to show that with the support we have.” — Jay Cridlin

10:10 a.m. Two Floridians in the Iowa tundra

I’m the Tampa Bay Times’ senior political writer, so covering candidate rallies is nothing new to me. Covering them in double-digit negative temperatures is another story.

As I type this, it’s -12, but with windchill it feels like -27. My colleague, photojournalist Douglas Clifford, and I have been in Iowa since Saturday reporting on what could be the coldest caucuses ever.

The sensation of bitter cold like this is humbling — I can feel my body heat leaching through my five layers with every minute I spend outside. Exposed skin becomes painful quickly. Condensation from my breath freezes in tiny crystals to my neck gaiter and eyelashes.

But the wind is the real enemy. One big gust robs you of so much heat, reaching straight into your core.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Emily L. Mahoney and staff photographer Douglas R. Clifford pose for a selfie in frigid temperatures Monday in West Des Moines.
Tampa Bay Times reporter Emily L. Mahoney and staff photographer Douglas R. Clifford pose for a selfie in frigid temperatures Monday in West Des Moines. [ EMILY MAHONEY | Times ]

The landscape also looks so different than what I’m used to as a Floridian.

On the side of the highway, windmills and grain silos peer at drivers like ghosts through the haze of snow carried by the wind.

Grasses and branches poke out of the snow encompassed by ice, making them look as if they were made of glass. Trees and telephone lines float between a horizon and sky of the same color.

Even in these conditions, the candidates have been doing their best to keep up the energy. Some DeSantis volunteers, including Florida state Rep. Chip LaMarca, were knocking on doors in the frigid temperatures.

The Iowans I’ve spoken with have had mixed opinions about whether the cold will impact turnout. We’ll be at a caucus meeting tonight watching what happens, including whether the crowds are more sparse than usual or if most people brave these dangerous temps. — Emily L. Mahoney

9:35 a.m. A plea to brave the cold

DeSantis made a plea to Iowans this morning on social media, asking that they not let the subzero temperatures stand in the way of their participation in the caucuses.

“I know it’s really cold, but I’m asking you (to) go out and participate in the Iowa caucus,” DeSantis said in a video shared early this morning. “You’re never going to have an opportunity to have your vote make more of an impact than you will tonight.”

The current temperature in Des Moines is -8 degrees, with much of the state under a wind chill warning. — Lauren Peace

9 a.m. Recent shooting prompted move

Earlier this month, Perry High School joined the list of schools in America that have experienced an on-campus shooting.

One sixth-grader, Ahmir Jolliff, who attended the connected middle school campus, was killed. Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger, who was critically injured on the day of the shooting, died yesterday.

Schools are often used as caucus sites, and Perry High School was originally on the list of places where caucus-goers would convene tonight. Five precincts, which were previously scheduled to gather there, have since been moved.

Perry is about 40 miles northwest of Des Moines and has about 8,000 residents. — Emily L. Mahoney

8:30 a.m. DeSantis jabs Trump on eve of caucus

On the eve of the caucuses, DeSantis and his allies delivered some of their strongest attacks yet on Republican candidate and former President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner.

”You can be the most worthless Republican in America, but if you kiss the ring, he’ll say you’re wonderful,” DeSantis said during a rally Sunday in Ankeny, Iowa. “You can be the strongest, most dynamic, successful Republican and conservative in America, but if you don’t kiss that ring, then he’ll try to trash you.”

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a DeSantis ally, did an impression of Trump at one point during the event.

Read more in this dispatch from Iowa.Max Greenwood, Miami Herald

7:45 a.m. What’s at stake for DeSantis today?

A lot. DeSantis has been coming to Iowa since March, first for speeches and book tour stops before he declared, then for his first official campaign stop at the end of May. He’s spent at least 50 days in the state since then, riding bumper cars at the state fair, playing catch on the “Field of Dreams” baseball diamond and courting the endorsement of dozens of state and local officials and more than 100 faith leaders.

The two main DeSantis super PACs have spent nearly 15 times more money on Iowa than on all other states combined. The more than $43 million they’ve spent dwarfs the $2 million they’ve spent so far in South Carolina and about $850,000 they’ve spent in New Hampshire.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, accompanied by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, right, speaks to members of the media outside his campaign office in Urbandale, Iowa on Friday.
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, accompanied by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, right, speaks to members of the media outside his campaign office in Urbandale, Iowa on Friday. [ ANDREW HARNIK | AP ]

Still, he’s far behind former President Donald Trump in every poll, and in a dogfight with former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley for second place. Republican operatives say he needs a strong second-place showing to separate him from other non-Trump candidates.

“If Iowa is a bust and he doesn’t do well,” said Jim Merrill, a Republican strategist in New Hampshire, “I think it’s doom for the campaign.”

Read our full Iowa caucuses preview here. — Emily L. Mahoney and Jay Cridlin

See photos from the last weekend of campaigning in Iowa

Refresher: Here’s how the Iowa caucuses work

Unlike most primary elections, voting doesn’t take place over a full day across Iowa. Instead, voters in the state’s nearly 1,700 caucus precincts gather at schools and civic centers at 7 p.m. local time (8 p.m. Eastern) to vote.

Each candidate will have one advocate in the room who will make the case for why they should win. Advocates can be chosen by the campaign or the candidates themselves, but sometimes are just passionate voters. Votes will be tabulated and sent to Iowa’s Republican Party. All of this must happen in person, with no mail-in option.

It’s not winner-take-all. Iowa’s 40 presidential delegates will be distributed proportionally according to the vote. In 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz received 27.6% of the vote, Donald Trump got 24.3% and Sen. Marco Rubio, 23.1%. At that summer’s Republican National Convention, Cruz got eight of Iowa’s then-30 delegate votes, followed by seven for Trump and Rubio. The rest were spread across other candidates.

Iowa’s are a fraction of the total delegates nationwide, so securing Iowa probably won’t make much of a difference in the long run. But it could give candidates a strong story and momentum heading into New Hampshire and South Carolina. For more on how the caucuses will work, click here. — Jay Cridlin and Associated Press

Related: How DeSantis is fighting to survive Iowa cold ahead of caucuses

What might DeSantis do next?

Given all the importance DeSantis has placed on Iowa, his polling struggles have many wondering what happens if he finishes a distant second — or even third.At a Jan. 9 town hall on Fox News, DeSantis said he was “in it for the long haul with this.”

“So are you saying that no matter what on Monday night, you keep going?” said moderator Martha MacCallum.

“Yeah, of course,” DeSantis replied.

The next night on CNN, DeSantis elaborated to Anderson Cooper, saying his strategy of accumulating delegates in every state would eventually pay off. He said he’d move on to New Hampshire “once Iowa is done,” and intends to debate there before the Jan. 23 primary.

“We’ll be barnstorming there all eight days and do well,” DeSantis said. “And then we’ll go (to) South Carolina the day after that, probably take a couple of days in Florida just to be at home for a couple of days, and then go to Nevada.” — Jay Cridlin