After a dominant victory in the Iowa caucuses, former President Trump delivered what some observers called a “measured” and “conciliatory” speech, pivoting to the general election.
“I really think this is time now for everybody, our country, to come together,” Trump told exuberant supporters at his watch party in Des Moines, Iowa. “We want to come together, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat or liberal or conservative. It would be so nice if we could come together and straighten out the world and straighten out the problems and straighten out all of the death and destruction that we’re witnessing.”
It was a “very calm, sort of forceful, measured speech,” Fox News host Martha MacCallum said after the confirmed Republican frontrunner finished his remarks.
In a departure from his withering attacks on challengers Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley — the respective second and third-place finishers — Trump congratulated his competitors and praised them as “very smart people, very capable people.”
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Former President Trump told Americans Monday “it is time for our country to come together” after he won the Iowa caucuses, cementing his status as the likely Republican challenger to take on President Biden in November’s election. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
“I want to congratulate Ron and Nikki for having a good, a good time together. We’re all having a good time together. And I think they both actually did very well, I really do,” Trump said.
Trump’s tone surprised critics like David Axelrod, the former chief strategist for President Obama, who posted on X it was a “Very un-Trump like victory speech.”
Former Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr., co-host of “The Five,” said, “I was shocked, how measured he was and how conciliatory he was tonight.”
“He sounded measured and sounded presidential,” Ford said.
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Republican presidential candidate former President Trump arrives to speak at a caucus night party in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Though Trump finished first in Iowa with a record-smashing 51% of the vote, the combined support of his opponents represents nearly half of GOP primary voters in the Hawkeye State, who he will need to win over to mount a successful bid for the White House. Trump took a first step toward doing so by refusing to spike the football and directing all of his fire at President Biden.
“I don’t want to be overly rough on the president, but I have to say that he is the worst president that we’ve had in the history of our country, is destroying our country,” Trump said.
His speech touched on American energy independence, border security, the economy and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Israel — which Trump insists would not have happened if he was still president. He railed against crime in major U.S. cities like Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles, vowing to work with local leaders to “rebuild our cities” and “make them safe.”
These themes are familiar to voters who followed Trump’s previous campaigns for the White House in 2016 and 2020. Aside from the brief mention of his rivals early on, Trump kept his focus on the problems he says America faces under Biden’s watch, posturing as the presumptive Republican nominee.
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Former President Trump, left, mostly ignored his primary challengers and attacked President Biden’s record in a victory speech after winning the 2024 Iowa caucuses. (Getty Images )
Despite multiple criminal indictments, including charges he tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss, Trump has for months held a commanding lead for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination in public polls and shows no signs of slowing down ahead of the next contest in New Hampshire.
Though Trump is unquestionably in the lead, the race is not over yet. Up next on Jan. 23 is New Hampshire, which has a more moderate electorate and has historically rebuffed the winner in Iowa. Trump also faces uncertainty with his multiple court cases — a conviction could severely weaken his position in the general election against Biden, or even remove him from the campaign trail entirely should he face jail time.
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Biden acknowledged Trump as the “clear frontrunner” to face him in November after the Iowa results were called.
“Looks like Donald Trump just won Iowa. He’s the clear front runner on the other side at this point,” he posted on X. “But here’s the thing: this election was always going to be you and me vs. extreme MAGA Republicans. It was true yesterday and it’ll be true tomorrow.”