As the fierce competitors traded blows, the bar patrons watched with rapt attention. When their favorite combatant came through in a big moment, they cheered.

“Got it!” Lyle Fini exclaimed, raising his fist in excitement.

The customers at Johnny’s Hall of Fame, a Des Moines bar, weren’t rooting for Nikki Haley or watching Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie trade barbs on the Republican debate stage Wednesday night. They were tuned in to the battle that mattered more to many Iowans: the…

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