DeSantis Supporters ‘Mad and Frustrated’ at Fast Race Call

The mood at the Ron DeSantis watch party was anger and disbelief — not at Mr. DeSantis’s clear loss to former President Donald J. Trump, but at how early The Associated Press called the race.

Representative Chip Roy of Texas, who spoke for the DeSantis campaign at a well-attended caucus site in Clive, said he was told the results before he even got onstage to make the case for the governor.

“Are you kidding me?” an animated Mr. Roy told a gaggle of reporters an hour later at the party, held in a West Des Moines hotel ballroom. “They haven’t even started voting yet and heard all the speeches and A.P. calls it?”

The A.P. said that its race call, which The New York Times relied upon in reporting its own results, was based on “an analysis of early returns as well as results of A.P. VoteCast,” its proprietary voter survey system that the outlet said “showed Trump with an insurmountable lead.”

Mr. Roy said it could affect how Republicans view the integrity of the election.

“It’s certainly going to raise questions for people in that room for whom it was called before they even got to vote,” Mr. Roy said.

Hal Lambert, a campaign donor who flew in from Texas to champion Mr. DeSantis, was speaking in support of the candidate at a caucus site when he got a text informing him that Mr. Trump had been declared the winner of the caucus.

“It’s election interference,” he said. “They basically called it before anyone had voted.”

Trina Brousseau, a registered nurse from Colfax, Iowa, who volunteered as precinct chair for Mr. DeSantis, said she felt disappointed by the early call.

“I’m mad and frustrated,” she said. “They don’t want to give us a voice. They want to control everything.”

Iowa assigns its delegates to the Republican National Convention based on the proportion of the vote each candidate receives, and supporters like Tom Giola, a DeSantis campaign donor who traveled from Atlanta, worried the call could have widened the margin between Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Trump.

“The disproportional impact it could have had, I can’t even imagine,” Mr. Giola said. “It’s frustrating. I don’t even know how you do that.”

Jake Highfill, a former Republican state legislator in Iowa who represented Mr. DeSantis as a precinct captain, said the result came in after the votes had been cast at his precinct, but before they had been counted.

“I just think it’s way too early to call the race,” Mr. Highfill said, adding, “It’s better to err on the side of caution and wait half an hour, an hour.”

Michael M. Grynbaum contributed reporting.

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