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Cruz Wins Iowa GOP Race; Clinton, Sanders Very Close In Dem Contest

Joyce Russell, Sarah Boden, Amy Mayer/IPR

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses for the Republican presidential nomination, while the Democratic race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was considered neck-and-neck early this morning.

In a speech at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Cruz thanked Iowa Republicans while also referencing scripture, Reagan Democrats, and what he calls “courageous conservatives”.

Cruz struck a balance, offering humble thanks to his many supporters, both Iowans and dedicated followers who camped out here to work on his campaign. And he continued his longer quest for the presidency by speaking directly to New Hampshire and South Carolina voters, and even some Democrats.

“Together this year Republicans and the Reagan Democrats can send an unmistakable message,” Cruz said. “The message of a Reagan-like landslide that once and for all will drive the liberal elites and the Washington cartel into the Potomac and out to sea, never to be seen again.”

Cruz went on to encourage supporters of other candidates to join what he described as a grassroots campaign of courageous conservatives.

Lynn Girton caucused for Cruz in Carlisle.

“He respects the constitution,” she said, “doesn’t just know it but respects it. He will not look loopholes to get around it.”

Rebel Snodgrass of Indianola stood out in a shirt that resembled the American flag.

“He’s a Christian,” Snodgrass said, is one reason he supports Cruz. “And because he’s been there for like 11 years, and I like his voting record.”

Cruz received nearly 28 percent of the vote, decisively ahead of the crowded GOP field.  His closest competition was billionaire Donald Trump, who got 24 percent of the vote, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who got 23 percent.

Just a few days before the caucuses, the final Des Moines Register Iowa Poll had Cruz trailing Trump by five points.  Last night, Cruz told supporters his victory shows the next president will not be chosen by the media, by Washington insiders or by lobbyists.

“But will be chosen by the most incredible powerful force, where all sovereignty resides in our nation, by we the people,” he said.  “The American people.”

Donald Trump had been Iowa’s Republicans frontrunner for most of the time since last August, but his second-place finish did not seem to dampen his confidence. 

Trump spoke for just three minutes to his disappointed but still enthusiastic supporters at the Sheraton West Des Moines.

He says he is heading directly to New Hampshire where recent polls show him leading by 28 points, and that a win in the New Hampshire primaries a week from now will set a course to the White House.

“We will go on to get the Republican nomination,” he says. “And we will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw up there. Iowa we love you, we thank you, and you’re special.”

Trump says when he entered the race people told him he would never finish in the top 10 in Iowa, and he’s happy with how things worked out.

Republican State Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale, who endorsed the Trump campaign, says he saw many new caucus goers supporting the businessman at the six sites he visited.

“I’m happy the turnout was so high,” he says. “I’m proud of Iowans getting out, and I think Mr. Trump will have huge momentum for the nomination.”

Zaun says he wanted to get Trump into more areas of the state during the weeks leading up to the caucuses, but he simply couldn’t find large enough venues to hold the crowds.

It was also a good night for Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who finished third, just a point behind Trump. During a speech to his supporters in downtown Des Moines, Rubio said he is grateful to Iowans.

"You believed in me when others didn't think this night would be possible, when perhaps you were lost in the daily narrative, when some suggested that perhaps it was time to step aside.,” he said.  “You believed in me."

Rubio congratulated Republican winner Senator Ted Cruz and says he has tremendous admiration for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who suspended his campaign last night.

Among Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the race was a virtual dead heat, with delegates being split roughly between the two. 

While Cruz was delivering his victory speech at the fairgrounds, Clinton began speaking to her supporters a few miles away at Drake University. 

She said she was “breathing a big sigh of relief” at the results of Monday night’s caucuses.   

With her husband and daughter by her side, Clinton addressed a cheering crowd at the Olmstead Center, calling for Democratic unity against the Republican vision.

“I followed their campaign,” Clinton said.  “I understand what they're appealing to and I intend to stand against it.”

Clinton gave special thanks to her young organizers for their energy and passion.    That’s after her opponent Bernie Sanders’s strong showing with young voters. 

Clinton promised to press forward with a real contest of ideas.  

“I am a progressive who gets things done for people,” Clinton said, in a subtle reference to Sanders who Clinton says makes unrealistic promises.

Supporters last night cheered Clinton’s success in the Democratic caucuses, with shouts of “we love Hillary”.      Deb Hearn was a Clinton precinct captain in Clive.   She’s okay that Clinton’s victory was not more decisive.

“We’ll take this one,” she said.  “We’re very happy.   We've been out there for six months talking to voters.  We had a wonderful turnout.  Neighbors turned out and supported her so we're happy.”

Bernie Sanders addressed his supporters at the Holiday Inn-Airport Conference Center in Des Moines.

He said he was overwhelmed and moved by the support his presidential campaign has received from across the country.

He says the people of Iowa have sent a profound message to the political, economic and media establishments.

“And that is given the enormous crisis facing our country, it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics,” he said.

Sanders surprised many political observers by proving a tough competitor for former Secretary of State Clinton.

He said his strong finish shows that American is ready for a “radical idea.”

“And that radical idea is that we are going to create an economy that is going to work for working families, not just the billionaire class,” Sanders said.

Drake University sophomore and Bernie Sanders-supporter Shea Seiff says she’s excited by last night’s very close caucus results, and Sanders’ showing.

“It was crazy to see how many young people are coming out and supporting Bernie, and even Hillary and O’Malley,” she said.  “And it’s just great to see the support that no one usually like has before. And even the people in older generations, they’re coming out and supporting Bernie, and everyone’s just coming together for the political revolution.”

At the beginning of his campaign, many considered Sanders’s chances slim, but his anti-establishment message has excited many voting blocks, including college students. 

The rivals in both parties face each other again in New Hampshire in that state’s primary one week from today.  Polls generally show Trump and Sanders with large leads in their respective party races.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames
John Pemble is a reporter for IPR
Michael Leland is IPR's News Director