DES MOINES — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Democratic Hillary Clinton won their respective party’s caucuses in Iowa Monday, the first votes in the nation.
The Democratic caucus remained too close to call between Clinton, former secretary of state, and her challenger. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), until Tuesday morning.
Though Clinton remained in the lead throughout most of the evening as results came in, the final margin between the two as of Tuesday was slim, with Clinton winning with 49.9 percent and Sanders garnering 49.6 percent. The third Democrat running for president, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, dropped out of the race Monday evening after drawing less than a percent of the state’s vote.
In the Republican caucus, Cruz carried 27.7 percent of the vote, giving him about a 3 percent margin of victory.
At a rally Monday before the caucus, Clinton told Iowa residents to think carefully about the experience each Democratic candidate would bring to the job. Over the past few weeks of campaigning in the state, she and Sanders have jockeyed to draw distinctions between their candidacies, given similarities in their platforms.
“You need somebody who understands how to get to the right; you need somebody who knows that there are a lot of hard choices out there, and knows the people who can advise and help make those hard choices,” she said. “That’s my request to you. Think about this because it’s a solemn responsibility. So as you go caucus tomorrow night, I want to thank you again. And i’m going to tell you again this: I don’t think America can wait.”
For the Republicans, the numbers were much less tight, with Donald Trump ending in second place at 24.4 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) finishing in third place at 23 percent.
Cruz spent the days leading up to the Iowa caucus reaffirming his conservative credentials, an appeal that has worked for previous Iowa GOP caucus winners.
“God bless the great state of Iowa,” Cruz said at a rally in Iowa City Sunday. “What an incredible opportunity; what a bit of history we are seeing as strong conservative patriots are coming together and standing in line. This is our time. This is your time, to make the decision for the men and women of Iowa, to say we can’t get fooled again.”
Among those who didn't win on the Republican side, many still drew positives. At his after-caucus party in Des Moines, Rubio noted his third place finish, but said he remained confident he would ultimately win the nomination.
“When I am your nominee, we are going to unify this party, and we are going to unify the conservative movement,” Rubio said.
But first, he congratulated Cruz.
“I want to congratulate my friend Senator Ted Cruz who worked really hard in Iowa,” Rubio said, “He earned his victory tonight.”
Republican students interviewed before the caucus said they were torn on who would best support students. Drake University sophomore Logan Kenner, president of the college’s chapter of College Republicans, said he wasn’t sure who students were leaning towards on campus, but he heard many talking about former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Bush, once considered a front-runner in the race, lodged a 6th place finish in Iowa Monday at 2.8 percent. Nationally, he is polling at 5th place with an average of 4.8 percent according to Real Clear Politics.
On the Democratic side, students were particularly influential, according to exit and entrance polls from CNN. While 84% of 17-29 year old, and 58 percent of 30-44 year old voters sided with Sanders, 58 percent of 45-64 and 69 percent of 65 and older voters voted for Clinton, according to CNN’s entrance and exit polls.
Before the caucus, Drake University senior Kendrick Dewdney, a Democrat, said he would caucus for Sanders, but was content with either candidate.
“I guess I’d be content with either Clinton or Sanders, but I think one thing Sanders has that’s very exciting is [his plan to] break down the big banks into a more diffused power and also ceasing student loans in general is pretty appealing,” Dewdney said.
Drake senior Jashay Fisher-Fowler, also a Democrat, said she leaned more towards Clinton because she found her college affordability plan to be more feasible.
“I’m interested in Hillary’s plan to make college debt free, I believe O’Malley wants to make college debt free as well,” Fisher-Fowler said. “My concern with trying to make college free in general — I have concern with that — it’s kind of unreasonable, and you don’t want to take the value away from a degree or from education.”