US Republican Senator Ted Cruz has won the Iowa caucuses, beating New York billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Senator Marco Rubio in a tight contest, US media have reported.
Cruz scored victory in the first vote in the presidential race on Monday, upsetting Trump — the national front-runner — in the race to be the Republican Party’s White House nominee.
“Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives,” he declared, slamming lobbyists and the media.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Cruz received 27.7 percent of the vote compared to 24.3 percent for Trump, while Rubio, who has struggled to gain traction in recent months, finished in third place with 23.1 percent.
“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,” Cruz said. “Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and all across this great nation.”
Rubio’s strong showing could convince establishment Republicans to move swiftly behind him as the candidate with the best opportunity to beat Trump and Cruz.
“We have taken the first step, but an important step, to winning the nomination,” Rubio said at a campaign rally in Des Moines. He congratulated Cruz over his “earned” victory.
Retired American neurosurgeon Ben Carson finished at a distant fourth place. No other candidate could gain 5 percent of support.
Clinton wins tight Dem race
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won a tight race with self-proclaimed Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton held 49.9 percent of the vote to 49.6 percent for Sanders.
In a short speech in Des Moines, Iowa, Clinton conceded she was “breathing a big sigh of relief.”
‘What a great campaign this has been,” the leading Democratic candidate for nomination said, adding that it’s been a “real contest of ideas.”
Sanders however told supporters after the close of the Iowa caucuses, “Tonight while the results are still not known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie.”
Iowa is important for the winners since it could serve as a launchpad for them to take over for the rest of the states.