The latest on the Iowa caucuses and 2024 primary campaign

By Elise Hammond, Aditi Sangal, Antoinette Radford, Amir Vera, Isabelle D'Antonio, Maureen Chowdhury and Jack Forrest, CNN

Updated 8:09 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024
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6:44 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024

Here's how quickly the candidate fields narrow after the Iowa caucuses

From CNN's Alex Leeds Matthews and Alex Newman

Former President Donald Trump won 98 of 99 Iowa counties in the Iowa caucuses Monday and outperformed his 2016 results. He heads into next week’s New Hampshire primary having claimed more than 50% of the vote, the biggest win in caucus history.

Crowded candidate fields often narrow rapidly following Iowa and New Hampshire, which have long been the first two contests on the presidential nominating calendar. In 2016, out of the 11 major Republican candidates who competed in Iowa, it was just over 90 days before Trump was the only one left standing. (CNN is defining major candidates as those receiving more than 1% of the vote in the Iowa caucus. By this standard, Asa Hutchinson, who suspended his campaign on Tuesday after securing only 161 votes, isn’t included in this chart.)

In 2020, the Democratic presidential field quickly narrowed in the weeks after Iowa and New Hampshire: Andrew Yang left the race after the New Hampshire primary; Tom SteyerPete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar exited in advance of Super Tuesday; and Elizabeth Warren left after a disappointing Super Tuesday.

Eventual nominee Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders remained the final two candidates until April, when Sanders dropped out. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who finished second and third in Iowa with 21.2% and 19.7% of the vote, need strong showings to stay in the race.

6:14 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024

DeSantis event in Claremont, New Hampshire, canceled due to unsafe driving conditions

From CNN's Kit Maher

An event for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Claremont, New Hampshire, hosted by the super PAC Never Back Down, has been canceled due to weather and unsafe driving conditions, according to a PAC spokesperson.

Reporters, including those from CNN, had already arrived at the event – where DeSantis was scheduled to be – when the cancelation was confirmed. The attendees who showed up are being notified.

DeSantis is in New Hampshire and will be at the CNN town hall at 9 p.m. ET tonight.

5:47 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024

Senator from Iowa won’t say if she’d endorse Trump after he won caucuses in her home state

From CNN’s Sam Fossum and Manu Raju

Sen. Joni Erns talks with media after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, January 9, in Washington, DC.
Sen. Joni Erns talks with media after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, January 9, in Washington, DC. Mariam Zuhaib/AP

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa on Tuesday would not say whether she would endorse former President Donald Trump after he won the Iowa caucuses Monday night by a wide margin. 

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that President Joe Biden does not occupy the White House,” she told CNN’s Manu Raju on Tuesday. 

When asked about Trump’s viability given the criminal allegations against him, she said: “You know he did pretty darn well in Iowa. And I think you might see that continue. So, here we go. Get ready.” 

Earlier this week, the Republican senator said she’d been courted by nearly all the candidates for her coveted endorsement but did not rule out endorsing Trump if he won the nomination, though she said she was bothered by Trump’s use of the word “hostages” to describe people jailed for their role in the January 6 insurrection.

8:09 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024

ABC News cancels Thursday GOP debate in New Hampshire

From CNN's Brian Rokus

ABC News has officially canceled their debate scheduled for Thursday in New Hampshire. The network had set a 5 p.m. ET deadline for Donald Trump and Nikki Haley to respond.

“Our intent was to host a debate coming out of the Iowa caucuses, but we always knew that would be contingent on the candidates and the outcome of the race. As a result, while our robust election coverage will continue, ABC News and WMUR-TV will not be moving forward with Thursday’s Republican presidential primary debate in New Hampshire,” an ABC News spokesperson said in a statement.

ABC News and WMUR-TV had planned to host the debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The news of the debate's cancelation comes after Haley said Tuesday morning that the next debate she will participate will be either with Trump or President Biden.

Ron DeSantis has accepted invitations to participate in ABC's debate and a CNN debate, scheduled for January 21 at New England College.

CNN's Ali Main contributed reporting to this post.

5:11 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024

House GOP conference chair calls on DeSantis and Haley to drop out of race

From CNN’s Melanie Zanona

House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, one of former President Donald Trump’s most loyal allies on Capitol Hill, is called on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to drop out of the presidential race Tuesday after Trump's landslide victory in Iowa.

“I am calling on every other candidate — all of whom have no chance to win — to drop out so we can unify and immediately rally behind President Trump so that we can focus 100% of our resources on defeating Joe Biden to Save America,” Stefanik said in a statement.

In the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, Stefanik – the first member of GOP leadership to endorse Trump – had been lobbying her colleagues to back Trump, as CNN previously reported.

4:44 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024

Key things to watch for at DeSantis’ CNN town hall in New Hampshire tonight

From CNN's Gregory Krieg and Eric Bradner

Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participates in a CNN Republican Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, January 4.
Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participates in a CNN Republican Town Hall moderated by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, January 4. Rebecca Wright/CNN

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is getting right back to work Tuesday, a day after his second-place finish in the Iowa Republican caucuses, making his case to voters at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire tonight at 9 p.m. ET after a brief stopover in South Carolina.

Here are four things to watch for in his CNN town hall:

  • His answers about Iowa: DeSantis spent big money and a lot of time in Iowa, which, in theory, should have been ripe for his conservative message. But he finished only slightly ahead of Haley. So what went wrong in Iowa? In the week before the caucuses, DeSantis began to attack right-wing media organs for their kid-gloves treatment of former President Donald Trump. Even then, it’s hard to hand-wave a 30-point loss and a failure to win any of Iowa’s 99 counties. New Hampshire has a very different electorate, as does South Carolina (to a lesser extent), but candidates want to tell stories. What kind of story will DeSantis tell about his disappointing returns in the Hawkeye State?
  • The expectations game: Unlike in Iowa, DeSantis will enter New Hampshire as an underdog. He says he likes that role, but after underperforming his initial expectations in Iowa, his campaign is in desperate need of good news. The Florida governor will likely try to paint a picture of what success for him in the Granite State looks like – and it will be instructive to see where he sets the bar.
  • Does DeSantis go harder at Trump? CNN’s entrance poll in Iowa showed DeSantis in a stronger position than Haley among conservative voters — especially those looking for a candidate who shares their values. What the Florida governor has never figured out, though, is how to chip away at Trump’s lead without alienating more of those conservative voters than he’s attracting.
  • DeSantis' case against Haley: Haley has long viewed New Hampshire as a springboard for her campaign — a state where a win could effectively turn the GOP primary into a one-on-one race between Trump and his former US ambassador to the United Nations. But DeSantis sent the signal Tuesday that he isn’t leaving anytime soon by traveling to South Carolina before continuing to New Hampshire.

Read more about things to watch for in DeSantis' CNN town hall.

4:27 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024

Trump campaign seeks to blunt Haley’s rise in New Hampshire 

From CNN's Kristen Holmes

Donald Trump’s campaign is shifting focus to New Hampshire and sharpening its attacks on GOP rival Nikki Haley as it seeks to combat her recent rise in the polls, which has been fueled largely by support from independent and moderate voters.

In recent weeks, Trump’s campaign launched a series of television ads attacking the former South Carolina governor on immigration, something Trump’s team views as a top issue for Republicans in New Hampshire. 

“One reason was to instill a ceiling with Republicans and right leaning independents,” a senior Trump adviser said of the ads. 

The campaign also released ads hitting Haley on her calls to reform social security and Medicare, with the intention of reaching independent and left-leaning voters.

According to the adviser, Trump’s team believes that potential Haley voters in the state are moderate to left-leaning independents who are able to vote in the primary. A recent CNN poll had Haley trimming Trump’s lead down to single digits, winning 55% of self-identified moderate voters, while Trump secured 60% of those who identified as conservative. 

Advisers to Trump insist the former president will win the New Hampshire primary, however, they have expressed some concern over Haley’s recent poll performance. Originally, Trump was only slated to do a few events in New Hampshire between the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire’s primary, but he has now added events almost every day before the ballots are set to be cast on January 23.

Trump advisers also said that they believe that Vivek Ramaswamy’s exit from the primary race can only benefit Trump.

5:31 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024

Haley says the US has "never been a racist country"

From CNN's Ebony Davis

Nikki Haley during a Fox News town hall in Des Moines on January 8.
Nikki Haley during a Fox News town hall in Des Moines on January 8. Rachel Mummey/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley claimed the US has “never been a racist county” during an interview with Fox News Tuesday. 

Haley’s remarks were in response to MSNBC Joy Reid’s comments on whether Haley could win the GOP nomination as a woman of color. Haley suggested Reid “lives in a different America than I do," pointing to her own rise as the daughter of immigrants to governor and UN ambassador.

“I mean, yes, I'm a brown girl that grew up in a small rural town in South Carolina who became the first female minority governor in history, who became an UN ambassador and who is now running for president. If that's not the American dream, I don't know what is. You can sit there and give me all the reasons why you think I can't do this. I will continue to defy everybody on why we can do this. And we will get it done,” Haley said.

When asked by "Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade if the GOP is a racist party, Haley made a broader point that the US have “never been a racist country.”

“We're not a racist country, Brian. We've never been a racist country. Our goal is to make sure that today is better than yesterday. Are we perfect? No. But our goal is to always make sure we try and be more perfect every day that we can,” Haley said. 

“I know, I faced racism when I was growing up. But I can tell you, today is a lot better than it was then. Our goal is to lift up everybody. Not go and divide people on race or gender or party or anything else. We've had enough of that in America,” she added.

A Haley campaign spokesperson looked to clarify those comments later Tuesday, saying “America has always had racism, but America has never been a racist country. The liberal media always fails to get that distinction. It can throw a fit, but that doesn’t change Nikki’s belief that America is special because its people are always striving to do better and live up to our founding ideals of freedom and equality.”

More context: Haley had previously faced criticism for failing to mention slavery when initially asked by a voter about the cause of the Civil War during a town hall last month. Following mounting backlash, Haley said “of course” slavery was the cause of the Civil War, adding she assumed it was a “given.” The former South Carolina governor on Tuesday said her motivation for running for president is to prove gender or race don’t act as a deterrent. CNN has reach out to Haley’s campaign for comment.

3:33 p.m. ET, January 16, 2024

Why these Haley supporters in Iowa are ready to vote for Trump in November

From CNN's John King

Nikki Haley speaks during a caucus night watch party in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday.
Nikki Haley speaks during a caucus night watch party in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday. Rachel Mummey/Bloomberg/Getty Images

CNN is tracking the 2024 campaign through the eyes and experiences of voters who live in key places or are part of critical swing voting blocs. Four members of our Iowa group settled on Nikki Haley for the Iowa caucuses and were disappointed by the results.

Betsy Sarcone is a single mom and real estate agent in the Des Moines suburbs.

When we first met last summer, she groaned at the prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch but said this: “That’s really hard. But I’d have to go Biden, honestly, I just, I can’t put my rubber stamp on Trump having more influence over this country.”

Now, though, a switch.

“Ugh. I’d have to go with Trump,” Sarcone texted Tuesday morning. “Biden in my opinion is far worse than he was when we first spoke six months ago. I can’t even imagine where he will be six months from now.”

“I expected a Trump landslide,” said Shanen Ebersole, a cattle farmer who was among the few in conservative Ringgold County who voted for Haley. As the campaign moves on from Iowa, this was her hope: “The real question is who can beat Biden. That’s what Republicans need to focus on.”

Here's what else these voters had to say after the Iowa caucuses.