Democrats and Republicans in Iowa on Monday split their support between their parties’ leading presidential contenders in what was the first voting contest in the 2016 election.
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee on the Democratic side, bested her socialist rival, Bernie Sanders, by the tiniest of margins, winning 49.9 against 49.5 percent support.
In terms of delegates, though, Clinton did better. She is projected to get 28 against 21 for Sanders.
Every state in the months-long primary contest appoints a number of delegates who go on to nominate the candidate at a convention in the summer.
The reason Clinton won more delegates than Sanders is that her support was more spread out across the state. Sanders’ voters are mostly white and urban, which is one of the reasons he is unlikely to stop Clinton.
Republicans split their vote three ways. Ted Cruz, a far-right senator from Texas, came in first with 28 percent support. New York businessman Donald Trump placed second with 24 percent support, followed by Florida senator Marco Rubio, who got 23 percent.
Rubio and Trump would each win seven delegates against eight for Cruz.
More than a thousand delegates will ultimately be needed to win the Republican nomination.
This website predicted Cruz’ victory, given that he campaigned the old-fashioned way — speaking to voters in small-town diners and living rooms across the state — and seemed temperamentally more in tune with Iowa’s conservative electorate, which is disproportionately evangelical.
Rubio and Trump campaigned differently. The former invested little in field operations and focused on television commercials and digital outreach. The latter preferred to make big speeches at giant rallies, drawing thousands of spectators.
Although Iowa Republicans have backed unelectable candidates in the past, Cruz’ victory should help him stay competitive and probably do well in other states that are heavily religious.
After he narrowly beat Mitt Romney in Iowa in 2012, Rick Santorum, a fire-and-brimstone conservative from Pennsylvania, went on to win in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee. But he never came close to winning the nomination. Romney won all the big and more diverse states.
Rubio’s unexpectedly strong third-place finish can give him momentum going into New Hampshire, the next voting state.
His ability to wean some evangelical voters away from Cruz should also lend credibility to the claim that only Rubio can unite the disparate wings of the Republican Party to defeat Trump.
But several more centrist candidates, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Ohio governor John Kasich, are hoping to break out in New Hampshire where Republican voters are only moderately conservative.