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DeSantis takes second place over Haley in Iowa caucuses, vowing to remain in 2024 race

What happened at the Iowa caucuses?
Trump wins, DeSantis gets 2nd, Ramaswamy drops out: What happened at the Iowa caucuses? 11:45

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will finish in second place in Monday's Iowa Republican caucuses, trailing former President Donald Trump but coming out ahead of Nikki Haley, according to CBS News' projections.

A third-place finish could have delivered a fatal blow to the Florida governor's campaign. He largely staked his fortunes on the Hawkeye State, where he devoted most of his time and resources in the run-up to the primary season. 

Addressing supporters in West Des Moines on Monday night, DeSantis vowed to remain in the race, saying, "We've got our ticket punched out of Iowa."

"We thank you for your effort. We thank you for your support. You helped us get a ticket punched out in the Hawkeye State. We have a lot of work to do, but I can tell you this as the next president of the United States. I am going to get the job done," he said. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters during a caucus night party on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters during a caucus night party on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall / AP

Haley, meanwhile, claimed that the results made the primary campaign a "two-person race." She has focused on competing against Trump in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary on Jan. 23.

"The pundits will analyze the results from every angle. We get that. But when you look at how we're doing in New Hampshire, in South Carolina and beyond … I can safely say tonight Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race," she told her supporters.

Just 40 delegates were at stake in Iowa, out of over 2,400 nationwide, but the caucuses have outsized influence in setting the stage for the race to come. Trump's victory goes a long way toward reinforcing his grip on the party, with many Iowa GOP voters standing by him even as he faces 91 felony charges in four criminal cases that have at times sidelined him from the campaign trail. 

Trump, who has held a dominant lead in the polls and has avoided debating his GOP rivals, is seeking to wrap up the primary race quickly and turn his focus on President Biden.

There is ample precedent for Republican candidates losing in Iowa and ultimately capturing the nomination. Trump himself did it in 2016, when Sen. Ted Cruz won the caucuses. Mitt Romney barely lost to former Sen. Rick Santorum in 2012. And Mike Huckabee won in 2008, when Sen. John McCain, the ultimate nominee, turned to New Hampshire to resurrect his bid.

But Trump's lead heading into Monday's contest was much larger than any of those would-be nominees, and the CBS News entrance poll showed him enjoying support among a broad swath of the conservative electorate, including many subsets of voters who viewed him skeptically in 2016.

The entrance poll also found the top quality sought by voters who chose DeSantis over Haley was someone who shares their values. Among voters who saw a candidate with "the right temperament" as the most important quality, Haley was the clear favorite, according to the entrance poll. 

Voters who decided which candidate to support just in the last few days were split between Haley and DeSantis. 

Before the caucuses, the Haley campaign said it expected a strong showing, but that the pressure was on Trump and DeSantis to "over perform." 

"Ultimately, I think there are two tickets out of Iowa," Olivia Perez-Cubas, a Haley campaign spokesperson, told CBS News on Monday. "I think one will go to Donald Trump and the next is going to go to Nikki Haley and this is quickly becoming a two-person race." 

A spokesperson for the DeSantis campaign tried to tamp down expectations for the Florida governor, selling him as the "underdog" candidate. 

MAGA Inc., the Trump-aligned super PAC, claimed victory in a statement and said that "[e]very dollar spent by President Trump's primary losers is a dollar that could be fighting Joe Biden." 

A CBS News poll released Sunday showed Haley leading Mr. Biden by a wider margin in a hypothetical general election matchup than either Trump or DeSantis. But the poll also showed Trump maintains a significant lead over his rivals and his support among national Republican primary voters hitting its highest level yet. 

Haley touted her lead in the polls in a general election matchup against Mr. Biden as one reason for voters to support her, arguing that her name on top of the ticket would lead to down-ballot wins for Republicans. 

"Do you know what that means?" she said Monday, before the caucuses. "That's bigger than the presidency. That's governorships, that's House, that's Senate, that's school board." 

­Grace Kazarian and Aaron Navarro contributed reporting. 

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