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In Iowa, Ted Cruz Overcomes Donald Trump's Star Power

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's hear now about the Republican side. Texas Senator Ted Cruz pulled out the victory in the Republican caucuses here in Iowa. He surged and then fell behind in recent weeks. But his grassroots campaign succeeded in overcoming Donald Trump's star power and lead in the polls. NPR's Sarah McCammon was at the Cruz campaign's headquarters last night.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Ted Cruz got to make the victory speech he was hoping for last night. He started by thanking God and praising the grassroots organization that helped him win.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

TED CRUZ: Iowa has sent notice that the Republican nominee and the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media.

MCCAMMON: In a room full of hundreds of cheering supporters on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Cruz repeated themes from his stump speech, taking on both the media and the Washington establishment. He said the next president will be chosen...

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

CRUZ: By we the people, the American people.

MCCAMMON: Cruz ran a textbook campaign for a Republican caucus winner in Iowa, building a network of thousands of volunteers, tapping into support from evangelicals and visiting all of Iowa's 99 counties. In the week before the caucuses, Cruz made as many as half a dozen stops a day, while Trump was back and forth between Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. At the campaign's election night headquarters, communications director Rick Tyler said Cruz's strategy worked, and Trump's massive rallies didn't deliver a win.

RICK TYLER: People turned out to these huge events and - but they don't turn out to vote. So, you know, that reality has hit the reality star.

MCCAMMON: Political observers had speculated that a large turnout would be a good sign for Trump, but Republicans turned out in record numbers and gave Cruz the win.

TED STURGIL: We feel great.

STEVE BAGAS: Really awesome - great night, awesome night.

STURGIL: Tonight was perfect.

MCCAMMON: Ted Sturgil and his friend Steve Bagas were celebrating with the campaign. Bagas said he was drawn to Cruz's conservative Christian message and his reputation for taking on the Washington establishment.

BAGAS: He's solid, and he fights. He doesn't give up. He won't back down.

MCCAMMON: Cruz will have to fight hard in New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary next week. Trump is way ahead in the polls, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio has picked up momentum after his strong third-place showing in Iowa. Sturgil said if anyone can take down Trump, it's Cruz.

STURGIL: The polls are wrong in Iowa. Iowans came out and proved the pollsters wrong. So anything is possible. You've just got to believe.

MCCAMMON: Believe and campaign hard. That's why Cruz wrapped up his victory speech and got on a plane to New Hampshire. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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