Ted Cruz, the first-term Texas senator who has made his rabble-rousing Senate tenure the centerpiece of his anti-establishment campaign, has won the Iowa caucuses and taken Donald Trump down in a major way.
“Tonight is a victory for the grassroots,” Cruz said in his victory speech in Iowa. “Tonight is a victory for millions of Americans who have shouldered the burden of seven years of Washington deals run amok. Tonight is a victory for every American who has watched in dismay as career politicians in Washington in both parties refuse to listen and too often failed to keep their commitments to the people.”
Heading into Iowa Monday, TPM Poll Tracker showed Trump with a commanding lead over Cruz with 29.6 percent to 23.5 percent of the vote. As caucus results in Iowa came in, however, Trump underperformed and only managed to win about 24 percent of the vote, with more than 98 percent of precincts reporting.
Cruz was able to effectively knock down frontrunner Trump by capturing the appetite for an outsider and mobilizing an extensive ground game operation that included housing for out-of-state volunteers in the days and weeks leading up to the first-in-the-nation contest and an ambitious and meticulous county-by-county travel schedule.
“From day one, this campaign has been a movement,” Cruz said. “Whatever Washington says. They cannot keep the people down.”
Trump ran a fly in and fly out campaign that was marked by big old rallies in a state that prides itself on pressing the flesh of presidential candidates. Throughout the campaign in Iowa, Trump’s campaign stayed quiet on its turnout game, which turned out to fall short of Cruz’s operation.
While Cruz initially tried to play nice with Trump, he abandoned that strategy after he began his ascent in the polls which left him eclipsing Trump for a time in December. As Trump turned up the criticism of Cruz and questioned his eligibility to run for president, Cruz struck back.
Now, Cruz is staring down a map that may provide him with even more momentum. During his speech, Cruz called on voters in South Carolina, Nevada and Super Tuesday states to give him a chance as he heads into those states. According to the L.A. Times, Cruz plans to keep up his ground game operation–including the affectionally named ‘camp Cruz’ – as he barrels toward New Hampshire, South Carolina and Super Tuesday.
While New Hampshire may prove to be most difficult for the conservative senator who has found his message resonating best among evangelicals and social conservatives. Cruz is still in second place in the state, according to the most recent CNN/WMUR poll. Still, Trump has an 18-point lead there.
But many pundits expect Cruz to make up plenty of ground in South Carolina where the evangelical community has been coalescing around him.
While Cruz managed to lock up many important Iowa endorsements, the senator has struggled to win the endorsements of his Senate colleagues who have publicly and privately expressed doubt that Cruz has what it takes to bring the country together. Even as he managed to mobilize an impressive win in Iowa Monday night, news broke that Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) was planning to endorse Marco Rubio. But that skepticism from Capitol Hill may play into Cruz’s anti-establishment street cred on the campaign trail.