Billionaire Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump discovered on Monday night that he is not quite as invincible as he makes himself out to be.
In a surprise result, the New York mogul – who has caused a stir in US politics with his aggressive speeches and his xenophobic stance on migration and terrorism – lost the Republican caucus in Iowa to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the Christian-right conservative who has been one of the main targets of Trump’s campaign speeches.
Cruz emerged the winner with 28% of the Iowa vote, compared with Trump’s 24%. Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, trailed narrowly behind in third with 23%.
In the Democratic vote, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended up locked in a tight race with Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont, one of the night’s moral victors. Clinton received 49.9% of the Democratic vote, with Sanders right behind with 49.5%.
The close results in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses indicate the US race will be long and bitter
The close results in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses indicate that the race for the White House will be long and bitter.
The outcome in Iowa throws up a fascinating paradox in American politics. The Midwest state, with a more than 90% non-Hispanic white population, has given a real and a strong moral victory to two Republican Latinos – Cruz and Rubio, both of Cuban descent – who also support tougher immigration laws.
After the results were announced, Trump gave one of the strangest speeches of his campaign so far at a hotel in West Des Moines. Strange because it was so normal: short, and without any broadsides or insults against his opponents.
On the other hand, the tone of Rubio’s speech – hopeful, patriotic and somewhat autobiographical – sounded like the remarks of the winner.
No clear Republic favorite emerged from the Iowa caucus. Cruz’s victory does not automatically give him popular-choice status among Republican voters: he is too far to the right to appeal to voters with more centrist views than those in Iowa.
In the Democratic race, even though Clinton won, Sanders’ strong showing on Monday night – half the voters in the assemblies held statewide supported his candidacy – may indicate that there are deep ideological divisions within the party.
The former secretary of state faces a lot of mistrust among a good part of the electorate. But she has a solid campaign in key states and the support of minority Latinos and Hispanics, who are expected to play a decisive role in the November 8 election.
The Iowa caucus – and the state primaries in general – is a guessing game. Rubio’s better-than-expected showing has thrust him into the limelight as the person who can beat Trump and shake up the Republican Party.
Trump did not hurl any broadsides or insults against his opponents in his speech
The candidates now move on to New Hampshire, where the first primary of the 2016 election will be held on February 9. Trump and Sanders are the favorites in the New England state of 1.3 million residents.
The caucuses in Iowa have never been decisive in the race for the presidential nomination – a process that will last five months with all 50 states participating. But they do help filter out candidates who have little or no support.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley withdrew his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination after receiving less than 1% of the vote. Republican Mike Huckabee also said that he would be abandoning the race.
Monday night’s outcome will not stop Trump from seeking the Republican nomination, but will serve to bring him back down to earth.
Clinton has the support of Latinos and Hispanics, who are expected to play a decisive role in the November 8 election
Until Iowa, the real estate mogul had never faced any kind of vote. The Trump phenomenon was based solely on the results of voting intention polls, the huge crowds he attracted to his rallies, and the media attention he was getting.
But real politics is rather more difficult than the virtual kind.
English version by Martin Delfín.