Trump expands ‘commanding’ lead in Iowa a month before caucus, poll shows | Donald Trump #Trump #expands #commanding #lead #Iowa #month #caucus #poll #shows #Donald #Trump

A little over a month before the Iowa caucus kicks off the Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump has expanded his “commanding” lead in the first-to-vote state, a new Des Moines Register/NBC News poll found.

The 77-year-old former president faces 91 criminal charges including 17 for attempting to overturn his 2020 election defeat, and civil suits including a defamation trial arising from a rape allegation a judge called “substantially true”. Warnings of the authoritarian threat he poses have been rising in volume.

Nonetheless, he received 51% support in the Iowa poll.

His closest challenger, the hard-right Florida governor Ron DeSantis, took 19%. The former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley took 16%, the entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy 5%, the former New Jersey governor Chris Christie 4% and Asa Hutchinson, formerly governor of Arkansas, 1%.

That meant Trump’s lead was the largest ever recorded in the influential poll so close to a competitive caucus day.

J Ann Selzer, the highly regarded Iowa pollster who conducted the survey, told NBC: “The field may have shrunk, but it may have made Donald Trump even stronger. I would call his lead commanding at this point.”

Selzer also pointed out that caucus winners have come from behind, notably including Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, in 2012.

Santorum was backed by white evangelicals, a powerful bloc in any Iowa vote. Last month, it was revealed that in 2016, Trump called evangelicals who backed a rival “so-called Christians” and “real pieces of shit”.

Bob Vander Plaats, an influential Iowa evangelical leader, endorsed DeSantis and attacked Trump. Kim Reynolds, the Republican governor, also endorsed DeSantis.

But despite such moves, and a general perception that Haley has performed well in debates Trump has skipped, the former president has only strengthened his position in Iowa.

On Monday, the fivethirtyeight.com average for Iowa put Trump at 45.9%, ahead of DeSantis on 19.7% and Haley on 17.5%.

Steve Kornacki, NBC’s national political correspondent, pointed to Trump’s momentum in the NBC/Register poll.

“We last polled Iowa in October,” Kornacki said, “and look at this: Trump is up eight points since that last poll, DeSantis only three.

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“You think about the month DeSantis has had in Iowa. He got the governor’s endorsement. He got a key evangelical endorsement and he was in the debate, he had the debate with Gavin Newsom [the governor of California, on Fox News], and it has not turned into measurable momentum.”

Haley, Kornacki said, scored better with political independents and anti-Trump Republicans but that was nowhere near enough to significantly close the gap.

Kornacki also pointed to what happened when voters were asked if their minds were made up.

“Seven out of 10 Trump supporters say its minds made up, they’re locked in. [For DeSantis and Haley], their locked-in vote is not even half of what Trump’s is. Huge enthusiasm gap.”

Despite his attempt to overturn the last election, including inciting the deadly January 6 attack on Congress, Trump also performs strongly in national and key-state polling when placed against the Democratic incumbent Joe Biden.

Also on Monday, a CNN/SSRS poll put Trump ahead in two battleground states: 10 points clear in Michigan and five points up in Georgia.

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