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The Iowa caucuses are best known as a contest where long-shot political candidates earn a brief and shining victory − and then just as quickly fade into distant memory.

Think Pete Buttigieg in 2020, Ben Carson in 2016, Rick Santorum in 2012, Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Howard Dean in 2004.

But 2024 caucus voters didn’t do anything surprising. Former president Donald Trump, who had dominated in the polls, earned 51% of the vote. Trailing behind were GOP rivals Ron DeSantis at 21% and Nikki Haley at 19%.

Regardless how the caucuses turned out, it is worth casting a skeptical eye over a contest that occurs in an overwhelmingly white state plagued with low voter turnout. With temperatures below zero, just about 115,000 people turned out to caucus last night.

“Every four years,” political scientist Stephen J. Farnsworth wrote, “the Iowa caucuses find new ways to become a problematic part of the presidential nomination process.”

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Howard Manly

Race + Equity Editor

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears at a Fox News town hall in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 10, 2024. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

1 good thing about the Iowa caucuses, and 3 that are really troubling

Stephen J. Farnsworth, University of Mary Washington

The Iowa caucuses have long been an oddity in modern-day politics but remain a place where GOP candidates can test their presidential aspirations.

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