Cruz defies late polls and beats Trump, while Rubio does better than expected
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com
But the surprise of the night was the late surge of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who took more than 23 percent of the vote and nearly knocked off Trump, who led most of the late pre-caucus polls.
Iowa was the end of the line for one of the Southern Republican candidates in the race, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who announced he was dropping out after garnering less than 2 percent of the vote in the February 1 contest.
Cruz won with 27.6 percent of the vote to 24.3 percent for Trump and 23.1 percent for Rubio. The four other Southern Republicans in the race all trailed in single digits.
Nearly 187,000 Republicans turned out in Iowa, shattering previous turnout records in the Hawkeye State.
Speaking to supporters after the returns came in, Cruz called the result “a victory for the grassroots.”
“Iowa has served notice that the Republican nominee and the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media, will not be chosen by the Washington establishment, will not be chosen by the lobbyists, but will be chosen by the most incredible, powerful force in which all sovereignty resides in our nation–by we the people,” he said.
Despite coming in third, Rubio was clearly jubilant after finishing more than eight points above his standing in the last pre-election poll and setting himself up as the establishment alternative to Cruz and Trump.
“This is the moment they said would never happen,” Rubio told supporters. “The people of this great state have sent a very clear message–after seven years of Barack Obama, we are not waiting any longer to take our country back.”
Among the other Southern Republicans, U.S. Senator Rand Paul came in fifth, ahead of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who was sixth. Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucus when he ran in 2008, finished ninth and announced on Twitter that he was ending his campaign.
In a letter to his supporters posted on his campaign website, Huckabee shot down rumors that he was about to endorse one of the other GOP contenders
“Those rumors are totally untrue. While I may eventually support one of the candidates, right now I have a lot of things to do in wrapping up the loose ends of the campaign, trying to figure out my next chapter of life, and spending some time with my dogs who probably wonder if I had abandoned them,” he said.
The presidential race now turns to New Hampshire, which votes February 9.