US presidential election heats up as frigid Iowa tests Trump

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Voters venture into sub-zero temperatures Monday to kick off the U.S. Republican presidential nomination race with the Iowa caucuses, the first major test of whether front-runner Donald Trump can beat out rivals Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

With a commanding lead in polls, the ex-president is expected to win the Midwestern state’s first-in-the-nation vote handily as he bids to be the Republican standard-bearer against President Joe Biden in November.

Trump, Haley and DeSantis were all forced to cancel appearances in the home stretch of campaigning.

“Dress warmly tomorrow,” Trump said at a campaign event Sunday in Indianola, just south of capital Des Moines, coming on the heels of him having to scrap three weekend rallies. “Brave the weather, go out, and save America.”

“Together we’re going to make history — but you have to show up,” he later said in a video on his Truth social media site.

Despite his apparent strength, the former president has been indicted four times since he was last a candidate and is preparing for the potential collapse of his business empire in his native New York as a result of a civil fraud trial.

“If DeSantis’s massive ground effort, coupled with a recent Haley surge, can drag Trump under 50 percent by several points, that will be the first meaningful sign that Trump can be defeated,” said political analyst Alex Avetoom, who worked on Republican John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“However, this paradigm-shifting reality — that Trump could be defeated — happens if, and only if, the rest of the field consolidates behind one anti-Trump candidate.”

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