National

            All eyes are now cast on the Hawkeye State, as we’re less than a week out from the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses.

            While the Democratic caucuses are not expected to turn political tides away from President Joe Biden’s (D-DE) campaign, it’s worth watching just what the margins are for perhaps his fiercest primary opponent, Congressman Dean Phillips (D, MN-03). Phillips flipped his Twin Cities-based seat in 2018, a formerly Republican working-class seat now much more Democratic than the state overall. Phillips jumped into the primary in July, stating that his party needs to “read the writing on the wall” regarding problems for the Biden campaign, such as dismal polling numbers and lack of enthusiasm among key voting blocs.

            Biden has another primary challenger in Marianne Williamson (D-CA), a self-help author who ran a presidential campaign in 2020, but dropped out before Iowa. Williamson has not generated poll numbers of concern for the incumbent president.

            Monday’s caucus vote will allow Democrats to conduct party business; an actual vote for the candidates will be conducted via mail-in ballots from January 12 until March 5, Super Tuesday.

Nikki Haley (Credit – U.S. Department of State)

            The Republican side of the coin presents a much more interesting picture. Since the evening is expected, among pundits, observers, and pollsters, to be a de facto coronation for former president Donald Trump (R-FL), the contest has essentially become a race for second-place, namely between former United Nations Ambassador and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

            The GOP field peaked at nearly twenty candidates over the summer, and has quickly, and uneventfully, dwindled to just six. In addition to Trump, Haley, and DeSantis, three others remain: former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and pharmaceutical executive Vivek Ramaswamy.

            Most candidates experienced relative surges throughout the primary, with DeSantis’ momentum mostly waning by the end of summer, and Haley now in the driver’s seat for second place.

            Trump qualified for the debates in all categories but was barred from participating because of RNC rules stipulating he pledge to support the eventual nominee.

            Nonetheless, Trump has continued to dominate GOP primary and general election polling, establishing margins of at least twenty points in all polls since September that include all active primary opponents. As of press time, Trump sits at 51.3% in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, with Haley in a distant second at 17.2%, and DeSantis close behind in third at 15.8%. Ramaswamy, Christie, and Hutchinson, make up the final places, respectively, but do not register above 10%.

            Essentially, if Trump were to not win the Iowa Caucuses by a landslide, it would be nothing short of a surprise. Iowa was a state Republicans were just getting used to losing on the presidential level. In elections from 1988 to 2012, the state only backed the GOP nominee once, George W. Bush (R-TX) in 2004. Barack Obama (D-IL) would carry the state by more than five points in both of his elections. While conventional wisdom provided that Trump would carry the Hawkeye State in 2016, observers were shocked to see him carry Iowa by a greater margin than Texas – almost ten points. Trump repeated the accomplishment in 2020.

            A mass exodus of working-class whites and agricultural voters from the Democratic Party, as well the GOP’s firm hold of evangelical voters, Iowa has presented perhaps one of the most stunning reversals in the modern political scene.

            However, those demographics pertain to the general election. Where this makes a primary, for either party, more interesting is on which fault lines those subsections of voters will fall. It doesn’t seem Iowa provides many inroads for the alternative Republicans. The state’s intrinsic working-class populism is what made it swing sharply to not just the GOP, but also Trump himself. Iowa is likely to mirror national trends among Republican voters, with voters favoring a more “Trump-lite” nominee in DeSantis, or a more back-to-basic establishment pick in Haley.

            For Iowa will indicate of GOP strength on a national scale, New Hampshire will display of politics stateside. New Hampshire’s age-old classical Yankee liberalism has turned it from one of the most Republican states in the country to a blue-leaning swing state as of 2000. Not only has Haley surged in polling in the Granite State – now only narrowly behind Trump – but Christie is tracking in a distant third. Christie is repeating his all-in New Hampshire strategy that earned him sixth place in 2016.

            On Monday’s caucus, 46 delegates will be up for grabs for Democrats, while 40 delegates will be available for Republicans.

State

            Students at a high school in Brooklyn were displaced by state’s moving of migrants from the large tent at Floyd Bennett Field in preparation for Tuesday’s winter storm.

            The move was made in anticipation of potential collapse of the tent due to heavy rain and wind. Some 2,000 migrants were sheltered into the second-floor gym of James Madison High School in the Madison neighborhood of Brooklyn.

            The school closed Wednesday and students were transitioned to remote learning.

            While residents understood the purpose of the safety precaution, many claimed it was only the start of a more regular occurrence, forcing students out of schools and into remote classrooms.

Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (Credit – Councilwoman Inna Vernikov Facebook)

            New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (R-Sheepshead Bay), whose district contains Madison, issued a statement on the matter.

            “Our public schools are meant to be places of learning and growth for our children, and were never intended to be shelters or facilities for emergency housing,” said Vernikov. “This is both unacceptable and entirely foreseeable, as Floyd Bennett Field is vulnerable to all forms of inclement weather conditions, and is not a sustainable housing facility. There are approximately 4,000 students who attend Madison High School. Their parents are rightfully concerned…This will agitate local residents, disrupt the entire school environment, and place a tremendous burden on our families, students, school administrators, and staff.”

            Vernikov was elected in 2021 and became the first Republican member of the New York City Council from Brooklyn since 2002. Vernikov was a Democrat before 2021.

            Vernikov represents the Forty-Eighth Council District, which contains the neighborhoods of Brighton Beach, Homecrest, Manhattan Beach, and parts of Coney Island, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay.

Local

            Congressman Nick LaLota (R, NY-01) accompanied Speaker Mike Johnson (R, LA-04) as well as sixty other House Republicans to a border site in Eagle Pass, Texas. His third trip to the U.S.-Mexico border allowed them to speak with law enforcement, local leaders, and affected communities, and even afforded them the opportunity to witness migrants illegally crossing the border.

            “My third trip to the border revealed a crisis much worse than what is described by the Biden Administration or among most media. Every day local officials and Law Enforcement see record-breaking numbers of illegal crossings, families risking everything to come here, and cartels taking advantage of innocent civilians,” said LaLota. “The President must reinstate the Remain in Mexico policy, the Senate must pass the Secure the Border Act, and blue cities must end their sanctuary policies. The American people need their leaders to act.”

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Matt Meduri serves as the Editor in Chief of the Messenger Papers and writer of America the Beautiful and This Week Today columns. As a graduate of St. Joseph's University, Matt has been working in the political journalism field for over 5 years. He is a multi-instrumentalist, enjoys cooking and writing his own recipes, and traveling throughout the United States including Guam.