- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2016

BONDURANT, Iowa — Sen. Ted Cruz halted Donald Trump’s GOP presidential coronation, defeating the billionaire businessman in Iowa’s caucuses Monday night in a vote that showed just how dissatisfied rank-and-file Republicans are with their party’s establishment.

Mr. Cruz held an insurmountable lead with 28 percent of the vote, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Mr. Trump was in second place with 24 percent with Sen. Marco Rubio nipping at his heels at an impressive 23 percent, boosting the first-term Florida senator into the top tier of the Republican field.

Mr. Cruz emerges having proved his brash talk and his strong organization were enough to overcome Mr. Trump’s celebrity appeal — at least in the fields of the Hawkeye State, where his more than 50,000 votes set a GOP caucus record.

At a victory party at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Mr. Cruz said his caucus win was a victory for “courageous conservatives” and a blow to the Washington establishment.

“Iowa has sent notice that the Republican nominees for the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media, will not be chosen by the Washington establishment, will not be chosen by the lobbyists,” he said, “but will be chosen by the most incredibly powerful force where all sovereignty resides in our nation, by we the people — the American people.”

Both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump ran as enemies of the GOP big-wigs in Washington, and voters rewarded them with a one-two showing. But the vote was still a rebuke to Mr. Trump, who had repeatedly declared himself a winner and predicted voters would respond to his brash campaign style and his stark calls for halting Muslim immigration and building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.


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During the campaign he fired everything at Mr. Cruz, including questioning whether he was even eligible to serve as president because of his birth, in Canada, to an American mother and a Cuban father.

But the reality TV star failed to draw enough new voters into the race to overcome Mr. Cruz’s formidable operation, which managed to turn out his supporters. Entrance polling showed Mr. Cruz won among self-identified evangelical voters, but also self-identified “very conservative” voters drawn by his vow to defend the Constitution.

“For me, pro-life is a big part of if but the biggest reason I’m for Cruz was the constitutional aspect,” said a 28-year-old Cruz supporter in Bondurant, who gave his name as Isaiah K. “We need a person with a proven record defending the Constitution and I think he’ll do the same as president.”

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, may have been punished at the end for his unorthodox campaign approach, which included refusing to take part in last week’s final debate ahead of the voting. Mr. Trump, who was protesting Fox News Channel’s hosting of the debate, instead held a rally several miles away to raise money for veterans.

That decision cost him, said Bob Vander Plaats, an evangelical leader in Iowa and a Cruz supporter.

“Iowans don’t reward people who don’t show up for the job,” Mr. Vander Plaats said.

Mr. Trump was gracious in his defeat, saying when he started his campaign he’d been told he’d struggle into the top 10.

“We finished second, and I want to tell you something, I’m just honored, I’m really honored,” he said in remarks that were strikingly unusually brief for the loquacious businessman.

Monday’s results are likely to slim the bloated GOP field, with a number of candidates performing poorly.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who’d led in the polls here at one point in the fall, came in fourth with 9 percent. His campaign said he’ll take several days off the trail and go to Florida before returning to the campaign on Wednesday.

Particularly stunning were the vote totals for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum, the winners of the 2008 and 2012 caucuses, respectively. They both trailed well behind, with Mr. Huckabee at 2 percent and Mr. Santorum with 1 percent.

Mr. Huckabee tweeted Monday night that this was the end of the line for him.

“I am officially suspending my campaign,” Mr. Huckabee posted on Twitter. “Thank you for all your loyal support.”

Also trailing was Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican whose father scored a third-place finish here in 2012 with his anti-establishment libertarian philosophy. But the son never managed to put together the same coalition — partly because there were so many contenders for the anti-establishment vote.

Iowa is traditionally a battleground for very conservative candidates, while New Hampshire serves to winnow the establishment side of the field.

This year, New Hampshire will become a showdown between Mr. Rubio, Ohio Gov John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, none of whom cleared 3 percent of the vote in Iowa.

“This is the moment they said would never happen,” Mr. Rubio said at his post-caucus party, portraying his third-place showing as a shock to the rest of the field.

He said he is the candidate who can unite the GOP, bringing together old and young, tea party supporters, establishment Republicans and insurgents who want a shake-up.

“I will be our nominee thanks to what you have done here,” he said.

But he’ll have to reverse his slide in New Hampshire, where polling has shown him tumbling from second to fourth place, battling with Mr. Bush. Mr. Trump has held a firm lead in New Hampshire for months, but Mr. Cruz has soared to second place and Mr. Kasich now polls in third.

The fall of Mr. Trump in Iowa could reverberate into the future, given how much he’s dominated the Republican conversation since his summer announcement.

Indeed, he’s been the driver, forcing other candidates to heel to his positions on immigration, and forcing the issue to the fore of the GOP debate — exactly where party leaders didn’t want it.

Voters, however, had other ideas.

“He is the loudest voice against the invasion on the borders and if we don’t fix that, everything else is pretty much academic,” said Mike Beer, 62, a paralegal caucusing in Bondurant. “If we don’t stop that we’re not going to solve our economic issues, our national security issues or our military issues.”

It was the second time Mr. Beer had caucused. The first time was in 2012 for Mr. Santorum, who won that year based on the support of evangelical voters, who dominate the Iowa GOP. Mr. Beer described himself as an evangelical voter, but said the race wasn’t about religious issues.

“Until we seal the borders, it will be pretty hard to solve anything else,” he said.

Still, Mr. Cruz won the precinct with 51 of the 167 ballots cast. Mr. Rubio was second with 37 votes, and Mr. Trump was third with 28, only slightly ahead of Mr. Carson.

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