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

Chris Mudd got the Iowa result that he wanted – a big Donald Trump win – but not the reaction he believes would be best for the Republican Party.

“I think all of the others should get out of the way,” was his take on what should happen now that the former president not only won Iowa, but did so convincingly.

That isn’t happening. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who finished a distant second, and third-place candidate Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, vowed to fight on.

Mudd, who owns a solar energy company, was in a celebratory mood at the office Tuesday morning.

“Ninety-eight counties and over 50% of the vote. Not bad!” he texted.

Mudd is part of a CNN project to track the 2024 campaign through the eyes and experiences of voters who live in key places or are part of critical swing voting blocs. Four other members of our Iowa group settled on Haley in the end and were disappointed by the results. Only one of Iowa’s 99 counties - Johnson - was going for Haley at the end of the night, and just barely.

A snowy caucus night in Ringgold County, Iowa. - Courtesy Shanen Ebersole
A snowy caucus night in Ringgold County, Iowa. - Courtesy Shanen Ebersole

“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.”

Priscilla Forsyth is an attorney in Sioux City who caucused for Trump in 2016 and voted for him in both the 2016 and 2020 general elections. She backed Haley on Monday, because she was impressed by her campaign events and debate performances and because she believes it would be best for the GOP to move on from Trump.

“Looks like I’ll have to get my Trumpy bear back out, lol,” was one of the texts we received from Forsyth as the night unfolded. “I don’t feel bad about Trump winning. If he is the nominee, I will gladly vote for him.”

Trump won Iowa in both 2016 and 2020, and he or any Republican would be the general election favorite in the state this year.

Still, our voters there can offer important insights for the election year ahead even now that the caucuses are in the books. One piece of the Iowa results worth watching, for example, is whether Trump can continue to make at least modest inroads in the suburbs – as he did across Iowa – in the states still to come. Another important question: Where voters who do not back Trump in the nominating contest end up if he is the nominee in November.

Betsy Sarcone, for example, 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.”

Likewise, Jaclyn Taylor, a single mom and entrepreneur who also lives in the Des Moines suburbs, said her disappointment with Biden’s performance would override her profound distaste for how Trump conducts himself.

“Trump,” she said Tuesday of her November choice if it is a rematch. “I can’t see Biden in office for four more. There is no direction in our leadership currently and I’d like to see how four more years of Trump transitions us into the next generation of presidential leaders. For me, it is the only option if DeSantis or Haley are not the Republican.”

Caucus night in a precinct in Woodbury County, Iowa. - Courtesy Priscilla Forsyth
Caucus night in a precinct in Woodbury County, Iowa. - Courtesy Priscilla Forsyth

Ebersole, the family cattle farmer, lives two hours from the Des Moines suburbs in southwestern Iowa.

“That’s a horrible question,” she texted when asked about her choice if there is a Biden-Trump rematch. “But I would vote for Trump and expect four more years of Biden. I think voting for Trump is voting to lose the election.”

Why doesn’t Ebersole think Trump can win?

“Too many moderates are afraid of the people he excites on the far right,” she said.

So all of the Haley supporters in our Iowa group are, at least for now, prepared to vote for Trump in November. That is noteworthy.

But, like many Trump critics, Sarcone is clinging to the idea the former president could somehow be sidelined.

This is how she ended her Tuesday morning text:

“I think I’ll take Option C and pray for more legal complications for Trump prior to November.” Her punctuation? A fingers crossed emoji.

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