On January 15th, the Iowa Caucuses were held to decide the delegates for each candidate who will attend the national convention, right? According to CNN, there are 20 bound delegates for Trump, 8 for DeSantis, 7 for Haley, and 3 for Vivek. So that must mean that the caucuses on the 15th decide the delegates for the national convention. While the caucuses have some sway on which delegates go to the convention, the actual selection happens at the state convention.
The Caucasus on the 15th were the Precinct Caucuses, which are open to anyone registered as a Republican. The preference vote happens at these caucuses and some other party business (If you wish to read more about the caucus process, click here). At this meeting, the delegates are selected for the County Convention. Each precinct gets a predefined number of delegates they must nominate for the County Convention. These delegates are chosen outside the preference votes and are not tied to specific candidates. Thus, the delegates selected for the County Convention do not show the results of the Precinct Caucuses. In addition, backup delegates are chosen in case one of the delegates can’t make it to the convention. Then, the same process of selecting and appointing alternate delegates happens at the county and state conventions.
It is finally at the State Convention that the delegates for the Republican National Convention are chosen. At this point, the delegates do not reflect the results of the Precinct Caucuses, which happened months ago. Many candidates have suspended their campaign and could have endorsed a different candidate. This happened for the 2024 Caucuses, where all but Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Nikki Haley dropped out of the race. Vivek Ramaswamy endorsed Donald Trump following the suspension of his campaign. In addition, the delegates have gone through 2 selection cycles and have been reduced to 30 delegates to represent Iowa.
In the end, while the Iowa Caucuses appear as the medium that chooses the delegates, they are used to show the presidential preferences and some party business. It isn’t until the State Convention that the delegates for the National Convention are chosen. Even then, the delegates won’t reflect the voters' preference entirely. When it comes to reading the breakdown of delegates for the candidates, just know that more has to happen before the delegates are chosen for the National Convention.