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Iowa Caucus Results: 6 Things That Explain How It Happened

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio may have finished third, but he had a better-than-expected night in Iowa, thanks in part to larger turnout and evangelical voters. Pete Marovich/Getty Images
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio may have finished third, but he had a better-than-expected night in Iowa, thanks in part to larger turnout and evangelical voters.
Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Donald Trump thought he could upend Iowa caucus traditions. The gamble didn’t pay off.

Hillary Clinton hoped she could wipe away her campaign nightmares of eight years ago by posting a solid win over an insurgent Bernie Sanders.

Instead, her margin of victory over Sanders was vanishingly small.

Those were just some of the surprise twists from Monday night’s results. Here’s what the numbers and results tell us about how and why they happened, according to our analysis of the entrance/exit polling and the county-by-county results.

1. Huge turnout didn’t just benefit Trump — it also helped Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

The conventional wisdom before Monday night was that a surge in new voters would benefit Trump, who was working to attract first-time caucusgoers and nonconventional voters.

Indeed, a record 186,000 Republicans caucused Monday night. But the 65,000-voter bump from four years ago didn’t translate into a Trump victory.

According to entrance polls, 45 percent of GOP voters said this was their first caucus, and of those, 30 percent voted for Trump. But an even larger chunk ended up splitting between Cruz (23 percent) and Rubio (22 percent).

2. On the GOP side, it was a three-way race for evangelical voters.

The bombastic billionaire had proclaimed for weeks that “the evangelicals” loved him and that he’d triumph with religious voters. Hoping to solidify support in Christian conservative country, he campaigned with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. in the northwest part of the state in the closing days.

But to Cruz’s advantage, the number of voters identifying themselves as born-again Christians jumped 7 points since four years ago, from 57 percent to 64 percent. And of those voters, Cruz captured 34 percent.

Trump was just narrowly their second choice with 22 percent. But it was Rubio who performed much better than expected to get 21 percent of the evangelical vote. So for all the predictions that it was a two-way battle for evangelical support, the Florida senator — who was stressing his own faith in last week’s debate and on the trail in the final stretch — was just as much in the hunt and made it a three-way contest.

Read more at NPR.org…

Additional reading:

Trump, Sanders and the Revolt Against Decadence

You Didn’t Win Iowa. Now What?

Sometimes, Iowa Democrats award caucus delegates with a coin flip

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