DES MOINES -- Iowa voters wielded their political power in the U.S. presidential elections Monday, handing a Republican caucus victory to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — who devoted ample time and extensive resources to the state —over celebrity businessman Donald Trump, who blew off a local debate and repeatedly chose TV interviews over voter handshakes.
The victory by Cruz over Trump and fellow Cuban-American Marco Rubio sets up a three-way race GOP ahead of the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary. The Florida senator’s finish closely behind Trump bolsters his case that mainstream Republicans should unite behind him to take on the front-runners.
“This is the moment they said would never happen. For months, they told us we had no chance,” Rubio told a Des Moines crowd that celebrated his third-place finish as an outright victory. “They told me that we had no chance because my hair wasn’t gray enough and my boots were too high. They told me I needed to wait your turn, that I needed to wait in line.
“But tonight here in Iowa, the people of this great state have sent a very clear message: After seven years of Barack Obama, we are not waiting any longer,” a triumphant Rubio concluded, standing next to his wife, Jeanette, and their four children.
The Democratic race between former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was too close to call late Monday. A third Democrat, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, did so poorly he ended his campaign. So did the Republican who won the 2008 caucuses in Iowa, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
For Trump, the loss could be significant. He built his candidacy on the notion that he’s a winner, and though he led Cruz in Iowa polls, Cruz’s vaunted organization and bus tours propelled him to the top.
Photo credit: Paul Sancya, Associated Press