Iowa could be Ron DeSantis' first and last shot

A strong showing could propel the Florida governor to future primary wins — anything less could end his campaign entirely

Ron DeSantis' campaign bus in Iowa
All eyes are on the surprisingly tight race for a distant second-place finish in Iowa
(Image credit: Kathryn Gamble / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When Iowans shuffle to their respective caucus sites next week for the official kick-off to the 2024 presidential primary season, they will do so under decidedly strange circumstances: With polls showing former President Donald Trump with a virtually insurmountable lead over his fellow Republican candidates (in Iowa specifically, and across the GOP field at large) the question of who will "win" the state's first in the nation caucus seems largely settled well before a single vote is cast. Less certain, however, is the surprisingly tight race for a distant second between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — once seen as the party's "never Trump" silver bullet — and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is enjoying a gust of positive momentum in both the polls and among big-ticket donors

For Haley, Iowa is a chance to build on that momentum whether or not she ultimately overtakes DeSantis next week, or at some future race — a dynamic she herself hinted at when she joked recently that New Hampshire is the state to "correct" what happens in Iowa. For DeSantis, on the other hand, Iowa is not only his first stand, but potentially his last; slippage from the second-place position he's occupied since announcing his candidacy would be seen by many as proof positive of the DeSantis campaign's irreversibly fatal decline. 

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Rafi Schwartz, The Week US

Rafi Schwartz has worked as a politics writer at The Week since 2022, where he covers elections, Congress and the White House. He was previously a contributing writer with Mic focusing largely on politics, a senior writer with Splinter News, a staff writer for Fusion's news lab, and the managing editor of Heeb Magazine, a Jewish life and culture publication. Rafi's work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GOOD and The Forward, among others.