Next Monday Donald Trump is going to comfortably win the Iowa Republican caucus. The question who will finish second on January 15, and be in the strongest position to challenge Trump as the primary and caucus calendar continues across America.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has spent hundreds of of millions of dollars in the Hawkeye State, but the latest polling has him losing ground former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is the candidate on an upward trajectory at the moment.
Not many international betting markets have a “who will finish second” promotion available, but they are offering outright odds to win the Iowa caucus. Right now at BetFair in England, Trump is the leader at -1600, with DeSantis listed at +3000 and Haley at +3800 in what isn’t a particularly robust market. To bet on Trump at Europe’s BetFred, it takes $200 to win $1. DeSantis is listed at +2500, with Haley at +5000.
The crypto exchange Polymarket does offer a “who will finish second” question, with Haley listed at .48 to win $1 if she’s second, and DeSantis at .47.
On the polling side, the FiveThirtyEight.com sample averages have Trump taking home 51.3% of the popular vote, with DeSantis at 17.2%. Haley checks in at 15.8%, with businessman Vivek Ramaswamy at 7.1%.
Look for some betting movement in the markets once the final poll from the Des Moines Register is released on Saturday, as legendary pollster Ann Selzer’s final assessment has been incredibly accurate over decades of samples.
There likely aren’t more than two tickets out of New Hampshire for potential Republican nominees, and one of those is certainly going to the former President. But whomever the second candidate is could begin to gain momentum as Trump’s upcoming criminal and civil trials play out on TV every day.
A poor showing in Iowa could be the end of the DeSantis campaign, where staff infighting and off-the-record finger pointing has reached breathtaking levels for a candidate that started with a massive fundraising advantage on anyone but the former President. If he can’t hang on for second place, he might leave the race before the shellacking he’s expected to take in New Hampshire does more damage to his political future.
Haley is starting to take in the donor-class dollars that were going to DeSantis during his re-election in Florida in 2022. The Florida Governor transferred $82 million as seed money for a Super PAC to support him, but that PAC is now canceling TV ad buys across Iowa.
The Iowa Republican electorate leans much more towards the evangelical, Christian conservative wing of the party. That should be favorable to DeSantis, but where he’s still far behind Trump. The more “Main Street” Republican base in the first primary state of New Hampshire, where ballots will be cast on January 23, should be much stronger for Haley. She trails Trump 42%-30% at FiveThirtyEight as of now in the Granite State, with DeSantis at just over 5% even behind former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at 11%.
Trump lost the Iowa caucus to Ted Cruz in 2016, who finished with 28% of the vote in the last contested Republican primary. Trump received 24%, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio in third at 23%. But it was basically Trump’s last setback, as he proceeded to sail from there to the nomination with very little resistance.
Cruz famously failed to endorse Trump at the ensuing Republican National Convention in Cleveland, but since the junior senator from Texas has been one of the former President’s strongest advocates, part of the shift of the GOP behind the MAGA movement. While Trump struggled with evangelical voters in 2016, over 60% of evangelicals in Iowa are now saying they’ll vote for the 46th President in recent polling.
DraftKings Sportsbook doesn’t offer odds on US elections domestically, but does in Ontario, Canada. Right now in Ontario, Trump is -650 to be the eventual nominee at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee this summer. Haley is the second choice at +500, with DeSantis at +1400.