In something of a stunner, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came out on top of real-estate mogul Donald Trump in the Monday-night Iowa caucuses, multiple networks projected.
With 99% of Iowa precincts reporting, both NBC and ABC called the race for Cruz shortly before 10:30 p.m. ET. He was leading with 28% of the vote, compared with 24% for Trump and 23% for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida).
Other outlets soon followed with their projections.
Cruz gave a victory speech at his campaign’s Iowa headquarters shortly after 10:15 p.m. CT.
“God bless the great state of Iowa,” he boomed into the microphone to start his speech.
“Iowa has sent notice that the Republican nominee and the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media,” he continued. “Will not be chosen by the Washington establishment. Will not be chosen by the lobbyists. But will be chosen by the most powerful, incredible force … by we, the people. The American people.”
Iowa’s Republican Party chair told reporters that more than 180,000 Iowa Republicans turned out to vote, shattering the 2012 record of about 120,000. Cruz set a record for the most Iowa caucus votes received by a single candidate.
Most polls had given Trump the edge heading into the caucuses. The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, conducted by veteran pollster J. Ann Selzer, gave Trump a 5-point lead last weekend.
A humble Trump was gracious to Cruz and the people of Iowa in a concession speech.
“I think I might come here and buy a farm,” he said toward the end of his speech.
Despite condemnation from high-profile state officials like Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), Cruz managed to eke out a victory on the back of one of the strongest campaign infrastructures in the Hawkeye State.
Early returns provided Cruz with a relatively comfortable lead for most of the night. Cruz had previously surged to a lead over Trump in the first-caucus state, but appeared to dip behind when he and Trump began viciously attacking each other on the campaign trail.
Cruz faces a tougher road in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primaries on February 9. Trump has held a dominating lead in most public polls of the Granite State.
But for at least one night, Cruz proclaimed his big victory was a “testament” to the themes of his campaign.
“Tonight, Iowa has proclaimed to the world that morning is coming,” he said. “Morning is coming.”