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Nail-Biter Leaves Clinton, Sanders Virtually Tied For Iowa Caucus; Cruz Beats Trump

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 2, 2016 5:07AM

Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump in an upset during Monday night's Iowa Caucus, while Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton remained virtually at a tie well into the night.

Despite the threat of a large snowstorm looming over the state, large numbers of Iowans turned out for the presidential caucuses, the first of elections which will eventually decide who takes the nomination for both Republicans and Democrats. Record numbers filled high school gyms, churches, and even some more interesting locations like a gun store and grain elevator to show their support for whichever candidate best represents their interests in the race for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

The turnout for the caucus was “unusually high,” according to various reports, with many locations filled to capacity and some vote counts beginning slightly late due to an overflow of voters. Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann told ABC News he expected a “record turnout” for Republicans, while the Washington Post reports about 40 percent of Democratic Iowa caucus voters were first time turn outs. At stake in tonight’s Iowa caucus were 44 delegates for the Democrats and 30 for the Republicans. While that’s only a small amount of the respective 2,382 and 1,237 delegates the Democrats and Republicans will need to grab the nomination from their parties, Iowa is the first real litmus test for viable party candidates.

The race for the Democrats can only be described as a nail-biter, with Hillary Clinton having an early lead of a few percentage points over Bernie Sanders. That lead dwindled to a razor thin margin at 48.9 percent—just a .2 percentage point lead over Sanders - with 93 percent of precincts reporting in at 10:40 p.m. Central Time.

Clinton spoke to her supporters as the numbers were still being counted, focusing more on the unity of the Democratic party than an outright win over Sanders:

"I'm excited about really getting into the debate with Senator Sanders about the best way forward. I know we may have differences of opinion of how to best achieve our goals, but I believe we have a very clear idea that the democratic party and this campaign stands for what’s best in America and we have to be united.”

Though incredibly close, the Iowa caucus was still a huge win for the Sanders campaign. Pundits and critics often attempted to label Sanders as not a viable candidate, and his insurgent campaign has certainly shaken the Democratic establishment that assumed Clinton would be a shoe-in.

"Nine months ago we came to this beautiful state. We had no political organization, no money, no name recognition and we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States," Sanders told supporters in a speech. He then moved to his familiar populist tone of taking on the Democratic establishment:

"As I think about what happened tonight, the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political, economic and media establishments. That is given the enormous crises facing our country, it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”

In an upset for some, Ted Cruz managed to take the Iowa caucus over Donald Trump, winning 28 percent of the vote to Trump's 24. Calling his win a "victory for the grassroots" in an attempt to appear more populist, Cruz told his supporters:

"Iowa has sent notice that the next Republican nominee will not be chosen by the media, the Washington establishment, the lobbyists, but by the most incredible powerful force where all sovereignty resides in our nation - we the people."

Cruz managed to hold his own solidly over Donald Trump most of the evening, but Marco Rubio was a close third, finishing in at 23 percent, just one point behind Trump. Whether or not this means the bottom tier candidates like Christie and Kaisich will continue their campaigns despite their dismal numbers has yet to be revealed, but Mike Huckabee said he would be suspending his campaign. This could be the end for not only them, but also Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. Though Carson said he was not planning on suspending his campaign, the Maryland neurosurgeon left Iowa to “go home and get a fresh set of clothes,” according to a statement from his campaign. Bush left Iowa to campaign in New Hampshire, but the former Florida governor didn’t even crack the top five, finishing nearly 2 percentage points behind Rand Paul.

Though Cruz took home the victory, the night was also a win for Rubio, who despite trailing in the polls, managed to come close to knocking Trump down to third place. Speaking to supporters in Iowa, Rubio said:

"This is the moment they said would never happen. For months they told us we had no chance. They told me we had no chance because my hair wasn’t grey enough and my boots were to high. They told me I needed to wait my turn. Tonight, here in Iowa, the people have sent a clear message - after 7 years of Barack Obama we are not waiting any longer to take our country back.”

Trump gave a surprisingly muted and short speech to his supporters, and focused on the coming primary in New Hampshire and his ability to beat either Democratic opponent. Flanked onstage by his family, Trump said:

"I think we’re going to be proclaiming victory, I hope. I don’t know what’s going to happen between Bernie and Hillary, but we’ve had so many different indications we beat her and we beat her easily. We will go on to get the nomination and easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever they throw up there."

Beyond Ben Carson's wardrobe malfunction, the evening's weirder moments included this viral video of a random coin toss used by one Des Moines, Iowa precinct to determine whether the precinct would send a delegate to vote for Sanders or Clinton. Clinton won.