MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – A victorious Ted Cruz and buoyant Marco Rubio have emerged from Iowa with compelling claims to the outsider and mainstream mantles in the fractured Republican primary.
Cruz emerged with a comfortable lead Monday night to win the country’s leadoff vote in what had been a close race until the end. Donald Trump, uncharacteristically humble after a second-place Iowa finish, was headed for far friendlier territory in New Hampshire, where the billionaire firebrand has been running strong.
Amid historically large turnout in Iowa, the unexpected benefactor was Rubio, who came within striking distance of Trump. Republicans had already been looking to New Hampshire to winnow their congested field. The Florida senator’s strong showing bolsters his case that Republicans should coalesce behind him as the mainstream alternative to the rowdier Trump or Cruz.
Meanwhile, with the presidential race shifting to New Hampshire, Democrats are girding for a protracted slugfest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who are locked in a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses.
The state party chairman calls the results “the closest in Iowa Democratic caucus history.” It was a far cry from the coronation for Clinton that most Democrats once expected.
Although Clinton said she was “breathing a big sigh of relief,” and her campaign said it had won an outright victory, the neck-and-neck contest was a blow, evoking the setback she faced in 2008 after her upset loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama. Given the closeness of the Democratic caucuses, The Associated Press did not declare a winner.