Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures after speaking at a campaign event in Portsmouth, N.H., Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. Image Credit: AP

The expression ‘to trump someone’ is to outrank or defeat someone or something, often in a highly public way. In most cases, the defeated are blindsided and never see it coming. This is precisely what transpired this past week in the US state of Iowa, which held its poll for the upcoming presidential elections.

The Iowa caucuses are noteworthy as the first major contest of the United States presidential primary season. Such caucuses are a strong indicator of how a presidential candidate will perform in later contests. Candidates successful in Iowa are also more likely to become successful politicians down the arduous road to getting elected, whereas candidates who do not fare well in the polls in the Iowa caucus are likely to drop out soon after.

Four players were on the playing field from the Republican party. There was Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, along with Nikki Haley, who was a former ambassador to the United Nations, and Vivek Ramaswamy, a businessman trying his luck in the national political arena. The fourth candidate and the elephant in the room was none other than Donald J. Trump, the former US President and the candidate who spent the least amount of time campaigning in Iowa compared to the other three mentioned.

When the results were announced, it was not even close. This was not a contest but a one-sided boxing match as Trump trounced the other three in such a manner that left Vivek dazed, who wisely announced that he was stepping down from the ring. DeSantis and Haley, dazed as they were, are still hanging on.

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The results do not augur well for either candidate as a viable alternative to the leading contender. With his 51% of the vote, Trump managed to outnumber the collective votes garnered by all three candidates.

Coming on the heels where all other candidates had canvassed excessively in the state of Iowa, spending time and money, it was indeed remarkable that a candidate who faces countless lawsuits from the East Coast to the West, and who has had numerous grand jury testimonies and court cases rise against him, managed to obliterate his opponents through the will of his followers.

The results augur well for Trump’s followers as they see it as a validation of the general mood across the country and particularly through his Republican Party. To many Americans, this is to be Trump’s Second Coming, a hero who will galvanise the nation and tear down all the ills facing it.

Faults within the country

And indeed, they have a long list of faults within the country. They cite uncontrolled and illegal immigration across thinly patrolled borders; they cite the situation in schools where teachers are mandated to drum up awareness about diversity and inclusion in children who barely have learnt their multiplication tables.

They scorn the Democrats for their part in allowing lawlessness to get out of hand to the degree where many Americans today do not feel safe.

Among the long list of grievances is the rising conundrum of homelessness and desperation in many American households living on the brink of economic disaster.

Trump’s supporters chafe at the billions that have been diverted from social programmes of the country to help Ukraine fight against the Russians, with many believing that the Biden has a motive behind this. Others decry aid being spent elsewhere, such as the massive amounts sent recently by the Biden administration to Israel, which has helped prolong the suffering of innocent Palestinian civilians.

Indeed, the Iowa caucus has demonstrated one thing plainly, and that is that Trump is highly relevant and could well be the potential President of the United States come November 2024.

Defying all odds, Trump has managed to increase support beyond his core base, and many of the newcomers to his message are those disillusioned with what Biden, the current president, has brought to the country during his rule.

There is a general feeling that Biden has become ineffectual and doddering, while Trump has the guts to tackle each major problem head-on and solve it swiftly. He is the bulwark of the Republican Party, and DeSantis and Haley would do themselves justice by gracefully pulling out from further competition.

Unquestionably, recent results have also jolted leadership within the Democratic Party, who now understand that there is indeed a real threat, and it comes in the form of a resurging Donald Trump.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena