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Iowa Republicans who’ve changed their minds this cycle are searching for a Trump alternative

In World
January 16, 2024

DES MOINES, Iowa — Most likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers say they have supported the same candidate throughout the entire election cycle, a contributing factor to former President Donald Trump maintaining a massive lead heading into Monday night.

But those who have changed their mind are largely shopping for an alternative to the GOP frontrunner and could play a significant role in the race for second place.

According to the latest NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll, 65% of likely GOP caucusgoers said they have supported their first-choice candidate through the whole campaign, while 27% said they at one time supported a different candidate than the one they plan to support on Monday.

Several of the likely caucusgoers who’ve switched candidates told NBC News they once supported Trump but are now ready to move on, with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy as their leading options.

“I still like [Trump]. I think I’m just worried about all the trials and having to go to these events. And, you know, I think it’s going to take up a lot of his time,” said Larry Gagen, 54, who supported Trump before planning to caucus for Haley in Dallas County.

Former President Donald Trump raises his fist at a

Former President Donald Trump raises his fist at a

“I could tell that [Trump] wasn’t really able to make it here to Iowa that often,” Gagen added.

Mary Davie, 59, plans to caucus in Mills County for DeSantis, though she said she’s a fan of Trump, too.

“I supported Trump … but he was doomed from the start,” Davie told NBC News, adding, “I’m just at the point that I think we need something winnable … we have to look at somebody who can actually win an election.”

Davie added, “I like a lot of what DeSantis says, and if he is as honest as he purports then I think [winning] is very possible.”

Other likely caucusgoers have been anti-Trump since the beginning of this cycle, and have switchted their support between his opponents.

Maison Bleam, 34, is planning to caucus in Polk County for Haley after backing DeSantis earlier in the cycle.

“I started to really think about who has what I feel is the best, you know, type of presence for international relations and who has some of that, you know, skill set in their background and so I moved from, you know, a very firm DeSantis supporter to over to Nikki Haley,” Bleam told NBC News.

“I’ve just been very impressed with her decorum, demeanor, delivery and found that inspiring enough to to shift support,” he added.

Quinn Dahlhauser, 41, plans to caucus for DeSantis in Kossuth County after considering throwing his support behind all of the non-Trump candidates.

“I was looking for someone other than Donald Trump at that point,” Dahlhauser said, adding “[DeSantis] has got a record of actually getting stuff done.”

Dalhauser added, “I don’t see that we’re gonna have a lot of opportunities to vote for someone like him that has a lot of moral virtue.”

Joe Cotton, 59, who is planning to caucus for Haley in Dallas County, started out torn between Haley and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who dropped out of the race in November.

Now, he’s backing Haley, saying, “I like the fact that she has the executive experience from being governor and then, of course, the foreign policy experience from the U.N.”

Cotton was firmly against backing Trump and against caucusing for DeSantis or Ramaswamy.

“I don’t think [Trump’s] a real conservative or a Republican,” Cotton told NBC News, adding, “I just think Ron DeSantis is too much of ‘Trump-lite’ and Vivek Ramaswamy is a ‘Trump-lite’ wannabe.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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