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DES MOINES: Donald Trump held a commanding lead over fellow Republicans Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis as the three kicked off an icy day of campaigning in Iowa on Sunday, the eve of the first Republican presidential nominating contest.

The Des Moines Register/NBC News poll released late on Saturday gave Trump 48%, while former South Carolina Governor Haley jumped to second place with 20%, pushing Florida Governor DeSantis to third place with 16%.

The survey provided a strong indication that Trump was poised to do well in Monday’s caucuses, the first party voting contest ahead of the general election in November.

A victory in Iowa would cement Trump’s status as the presumptive Republican nominee who will face Democratic President Joe Biden in a rematch of their 2020 battle.

It is also the first electoral test of Republicans’ willingness to look past the scores of criminal charges Trump is facing, as well as his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack by his supporters on the US Capitol.

With temperatures expected to plunge to record lows in the state, one question facing the candidates was whether their supporters would be sufficiently motivated to show up on caucus night.

Iowa’s caucus format for its nomination contests requires voters to show up in person, and forecasters predict the coldest Iowa caucus night ever - minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 30 degrees Celsius).

DeSantis, who has slipped in some polls in recent weeks, urged his supporters to brave the cold, saying their votes would have greater weight if the weather leads to significantly lower turnout.

“We’re telling our supporters: You go out, you bring some friends and family. That is going to pack a big punch,” he told CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’ Trump plans a Sunday rally in Indianola, a suburb of Iowa’s capital Des Moines, but the weather forced him to cancel one in the city of Cherokee. The former president canceled two events on Saturday, appearing in the evening on a campaign livestream.

Their battle increasingly bitter, Haley and DeSantis begin their last full day of Iowa campaigning in Dubuque in the east of the state near the Mississippi River.

DeSantis and Haley both need to do well enough in Iowa to give them some momentum for the next contest, in New Hampshire on Jan. 23.

In interviews with US media on Sunday, neither claimed they were poised to win in Iowa.

“We just want to come out of Iowa looking strong,” Haley told Fox News Sunday.

From 7 p.m. CST on Monday (0100 GMT on Tuesday), Iowans will gather for two hours in school gymnasiums, bars and other locations to debate the Republican candidates before ranking them in order of preference.

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