Ted Cruz looks like the big winner in the Republican presidential race tonight. The Texas Senator appears to have beaten out Donald Trump in the Iowa caucus, who had been running in first place in the state.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Cruz is leading with 28 percent of the vote, while Trump lags behind with 24 percent of the vote. CNN and other news networks have projected that Cruz will be the winner.
Marco Rubio also looks to be outperforming the polls: He was pulling in about 15 percent in polls over the weekend, but he came in third, and very close to Trump, with 23 percent. It's still possible that Rubio will ultimately pull out a second place finish.
Questions about Trump's ability to bring supporters to the polls, especially in Iowa, where the caucus process requires a bigger time investment than in a traditional primary, have dogged the candidate for weeks, with many wondering whether his commanding poll numbers would translate into real support from voters. Reports questioned the strength of Trump's ground game, which seemed to be missing in action. Tonight's results are a strong indicator that Trump's support isn't quite as strong as the polls suggest.
Cruz, meanwhile, built a formidable get out the vote operation in the state, and he seems to have effectively capitalized on it tonight. Tonight's win shows Cruz's strength as a political tactician, and his ability to plan and execute a campaign strategy. His victory also suggests the GOP's anti-establishment mood; Cruz is not a Trump-style populist, but he is a conservatively bomb-thrower who has consistently fought with party leadership. It's also notable that Cruz won despite his opposition to ethanol subsidies, and the fact that he was singled out by Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad for his stance on corn-based energy.
In some ways, though, it's not all that surprising that Cruz won: In addition to his strong organization, he's also a staunch social conservative of the sort that frequently performs well in the Iowa caucus.
Going forward, Cruz's victory, and Marco Rubio's much-stronger-than-expected finish, essentially make the GOP primary a three-man race between Cruz, Rubio, and Trump. Polls show Trump is way, way ahead in New Hampshire, which votes next week. So one big question now is whether Trump's lead there is big enough to absorb the losses that occur between polling and voting.