Gary Bauer / Feb. 3, 2016

Cruz Wins

In an Iowa caucus that broke all turnout records, with more than 186,000 Republicans participating, Ted Cruz defied the polls by defeating Donald Trump 28% to 24%. Cruz’s ground game and turnout effort impressed even seasoned Iowa operatives. For the last three weeks Cruz has been the target of withering attacks from all sides. Trump hit Cruz repeatedly with concerns about his citizenship. The party establishment, from the governor of Iowa to Bob Dole, did its best to smear him. In the last debate, which Trump skipped, every other candidate saw their chance to eviscerate Cruz, hoping to knock him out of contention. How did Cruz defy expectations? According to the exit polls, there was a surge of evangelical voters. In 2012, evangelical voters made up 57% of Iowa GOP caucus-goers. [Monday] night, they accounted for 64% of Republican caucus-goers, and Cruz won them by 12 points.

In an Iowa caucus that broke all turnout records, with more than 186,000 Republicans participating, Ted Cruz defied the polls by defeating Donald Trump 28% to 24%. Cruz’s ground game and turnout effort impressed even seasoned Iowa operatives.

For the last three weeks Cruz has been the target of withering attacks from all sides. Trump hit Cruz repeatedly with concerns about his citizenship. The party establishment, from the governor of Iowa to Bob Dole, did its best to smear him. In the last debate, which Trump skipped, every other candidate saw their chance to eviscerate Cruz, hoping to knock him out of contention.

How did Cruz defy expectations? According to the exit polls, there was a surge of evangelical voters. In 2012, evangelical voters made up 57% of Iowa GOP caucus-goers. [Monday] night, they accounted for 64% of Republican caucus-goers, and Cruz won them by 12 points.

Trump Scores Strong Second

If anybody had said one year ago that Donald Trump would finish second in the Iowa Republican caucuses, they would have been laughed out of the room. But that is what happened [Monday] night. Ironically, it is seen as underperforming by the guy who built his whole campaign on being a winner. (In fact, Trump almost finished third.)

The last two weeks have been very good for Donald Trump. He picked up endorsements from Sarah Palin to Jerry Falwell, Jr. He had massive rallies in Iowa. But at the end of the day, his ground game couldn’t compete with the Cruz campaign.

I couldn’t help but notice [Monday] night that when Trump came out to make his post-election statement, he did not do what many people expected. He did not attack the voters of Iowa or launch into a rant. He was much more astute and avoided a “Howard Dean moment.”

Before [Monday] night Trump was leading the polls in virtually every state in the country, and often by large margins. In the most recent New Hampshire poll, for example, Trump leads by 26 points. The polling over the next couple of days will say a lot about whether the Iowa defeat has hurt him nationally or not.

Rubio Impresses

While Marco Rubio had been running third in most polls, they underestimated how strongly he was performing with voters. [Monday] night he finished just behind Donald Trump at 23%. As the saying goes about presidential primary contests, “There are three plane tickets out of Iowa,” and Rubio claimed one of those tickets.

Rubio’s campaign is understandably trying to portray his very close third-place finish as a victory. While Rubio did not win the caucuses, there is no doubt that his showing is impressive.

Rubio clearly had a surge in the last couple of weeks, and he may have crushed the hopes of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich, all of whom are hoping to emerge as the establishment candidate. While Rubio has some establishment support, he also received his share of values voters.

Look for Rubio’s campaign and supporters to emphasize how well he did with younger voters, which the Republican Party must attract in November. Also look for Senator Rubio to come under fire from Trump, as well as Bush, Christie and Kasich.

Like the proverbial groundhog, Iowa voters have just guaranteed that Republicans will have several more weeks of a bruising campaign season with some very strong candidates.

Results

Here’s how the rest of field finished:

Dr. Ben Carson 9%
Sen. Rand Paul 4%
Gov. Jeb Bush 3%
Carly Fiorina 2%
Gov. John Kasich 2%
Gov. Mike Huckabee 2%
Gov. Chris Christie 2%
Sen. Rick Santorum 1%

As for the delegate count, Senator Cruz captured eight delegates, Trump and Rubio each won seven, Ben Carson gets three and Rand Paul and Jeb Bush both get one.

Democrats Divided

The final Iowa polls gave Hillary Clinton a small, but significant lead — about 4 points going into the caucuses. But reports of a “Sanders surge” turned out to be true. Among young, college-age liberals who swarmed the caucuses, exit polls revealed that they broke 80/20 for Sanders.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders went at it for weeks and essentially ended up in a tie. The outcome in at least six precincts was literally decided by a coin toss, and Clinton won all six. Sanders is demanding the raw vote totals be released, which the party establishment is unlikely to do.

Hillary Clinton may be claiming victory, but her inconclusive performance has many Democrats whispering about a possible repeat of the 2008 primary battles.

On to New Hampshire!

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