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Why AP called Iowa for Trump: Race call explained

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump scored the first victory of the 2024 presidential primary season Monday with a sweeping and broad-based win in the Iowa Republican caucuses. The Associated Press declared the former president the winner based on an analysis of initial returns as well as results of AP VoteCast, a survey of voters who planned to caucus on Monday night. Both showed Trump with an insurmountable lead.

Initial results from eight counties showed Trump with far more than half of the total votes counted as of 8:31 pm. ET, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in a tight competition for second place far behind the former president. These counties included rural areas that are demographically and politically similar to a large number of counties that had yet to report.

In traditional primaries, AP does not declare a winner in any race before the last polls are scheduled to close in the contest. It’s sometimes possible to declare a winner in those races immediately after polls close, before any vote results are released. AP does so only when its VoteCast survey of voters and other evidence, including the history of a state’s elections, details about ballots cast before Election Day and pre-election polling, provide overwhelming evidence of who has won.

The Iowa caucuses are different. There are no “polls” and no fixed time when all the voting ends. Instead, there is an 8 p.m. ET deadline for voters taking part to arrive at their caucus site, at which point deliberations among caucus-goers begin behind closed doors. Some caucus sites might complete their business in a few minutes, while others can take some time to determine the outcome.

For that reason, AP followed its past practice and did not make a “poll close” declaration of the winner on Monday night. Instead, AP reviewed returns from caucus sites across Iowa and declared Trump the winner only after those results, along with VoteCast and other evidence, made it unquestionably clear he had won,

This is the same approach AP has followed in declaring winners in past Iowa caucuses. In 2020, when Trump sought re-election, AP declared the former president the caucus winner at 8:25 p.m. ET. Declarations have taken longer in more closely contested races. In 2016, AP was not able to name Texas Sen. Ted Cruz the winner over Trump until 10:26 p.m. ET.

AP VoteCast is a comprehensive survey of both voters and nonvoters that provides a detailed snapshot of the electorate and helps explain who voted, what issues they care about, how they feel about the candidates and why they voted the way they did.

AP VoteCast found Trump had with sizable leads among both men and women, as well as every age group and geographic regions throughout the state. The survey found that Trump was favored by about 6 out of 10 voters intending to caucus who identify as born-again Christians. Polls showed that was a relatively weak group of backers for Trump in Iowa in 2016.

In the early returns, Trump significantly outperformed his second-place 2016 caucus finish, when he received 24% of the vote, compared to 28% for Cruz. That year, Trump placed third in some of the state’s most populous counties, including Dallas, Johnson, Polk, Scott and Story, all of which were carried by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. This year, was either leading or running much more competitively in those counties.

Robert Yoon, The Associated Press


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