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Iowa Caucuses: Cruz Wins GOP Race; Clinton Defeats Sanders


And I'm David Greene in Des Moines, Iowa. Now, when we were sitting at this coffee shop in Des Moines about 24 hours ago, we were talking about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton holding leads in a poll that came out over the weekend. Well, now the voters have spoken. Ted Cruz, not Donald Trump, won on the Republican side. Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders, barely. Here is NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: It was a night of surprises as, once again, conventional wisdom about this year's election was proved wrong. Turnout was way up, but it didn't push the two outsiders, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, over the top. Instead, Ted Cruz, who ran a textbook campaign based on field organization and meticulous attention to Iowa voters, was the winner, beating Trump 28 to 24 percent.


TED CRUZ: Tonight, the state of Iowa has spoken.


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


LIASSON: Iowa was a state tailor-made for Cruz with a large number of very conservative and evangelical voters. But, Cruz was the target of attacks from all sides. Trump accused him of being constitutionally unqualified to be president because he was born in Canada, and the governor of Iowa campaigned openly against him because Cruz was opposed to Iowa's ethanol subsidy.


CRUZ: Tonight is a testament to the people's commitments to their yearnings to get back to our core commitment, free market principles, constitutional liberties and the Judeo-Christian values that built this great nation.


LIASSON: In the battle between the two self-styled insurgents, the establishment clearly tilted to Trump. But last night, Trump was a loser. In his concession speech, a clearly deflated Trump was gracious, even humble, as he tried to spin the results as best he could.


DONALD TRUMP: I was told by everybody, do not go to Iowa. You could never finish even in the top ten.


TRUMP: And I said, but I have friends in Iowa. I know a lot of people in Iowa. I think they'll really like me. Let's give it a shot. They said, don't do it. I said, I have to do it.


TRUMP: And we finished second, and I want to tell you something. I'm just honored. I'm really honored.

LIASSON: The turnout on the Republican side was, as Donald Trump would say, huge, more than 186,000, half again larger than the record turnout of 2012. But that didn't help Trump. If one of the questions going into Iowa was whether Trump's support would turn into votes, the answer was not really. Trump still has a path to the nomination because he has big leads in New Hampshire, South Carolina and almost everywhere else. Marco Rubio did exactly what he wanted to do in Iowa last night. He came in a strong third as the polls had suggested he would. Rubio gave a humble bragging address to his supporters that sounded like a victory speech.


MARCO RUBIO: For months, they told us we had no chance. For months, they told us because we offer too much optimism in a time of anger we had no chance. They told me that we had no chance because my hair wasn't gray enough, and my boots were too high.


RUBIO: They told me I needed to wait my turn, that I needed to wait in line.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: This is your turn.


LIASSON: On the Democratic side, turnout was also up but not by as much as Bernie Sanders needed. Even before all the votes had been counted, Hillary Clinton came out to speak to her supporters. She had suffered a stinging third-place defeat in Iowa eight years ago. But last night, she was happy to be ahead of Sanders, even by the skin of her teeth.


HILLARY CLINTON: So as I stand here tonight breathing a big sigh of relief, thank you, Iowa.


CLINTON: I want you to know I will keep doing what I have done my entire life. I will keep standing up for you. I will keep fighting for you.

LIASSON: Sanders' goal was to enlarge the Iowa electorate with young people the way Barack Obama had done eight years ago. He did beat Clinton nearly nine-to-one with young voters. But according to exit polls, young people did not turn out in as large numbers as older voters, where Clinton had a big edge. Still, Sanders wasn't conceding anything.


BERNIE SANDERS: Tonight, while the results are still not known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie.


LIASSON: Iowa voters have now fulfilled their quadrennial function in American politics. Last night, they proved that the laws of political gravity have not been repealed. They proved enthusiasm is important but organization still matters. There was no upset on the Democratic side, although Clinton got the scare of her life. On the Republican side, there is now an emerging establishment alternative, Marco Rubio. And there's a competitive fight in the antiestablishment lane between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The battle for the Republican nomination is now a three-man race. Mara Liasson, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.

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