What Cruz's Win, Trump's Loss Mean for GOP
A Cruz-Rubio showdown is on the horizon
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2016 12:23 AM CST
Updated Feb 2, 2016 6:21 AM CST
Ted Cruz arrives for a caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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(Newser) – In an outcome that few analysts predicted, Donald Trump is not only a loser in Iowa, coming in second to Ted Cruz, he came within a whisker of being knocked into third place by Marco Rubio. Here's what pundits say this means for the GOP nomination race:

  • "The loss raises the possibility that Mr. Trump's strength is at least partly an illusion; he may not be quite as strong as he looks," writes Nate Cohn at the New York Times. A long, three-way fight probably lies ahead, and Cruz now appears to have "a narrow but real path" to the nomination, involving success in Southern states after next week's New Hampshire primary, he writes.

  • Rubio's third-place finish is great news for the GOP establishment seeking a clear alternative to both Cruz and Trump, Eli Stokols writes at Politico. Going into New Hampshire, Rubio is on the "sharpest upward trajectory while his two rivals, despite finishing ahead of him, are seeing their support tick down in recent weeks as the result of unrelenting attacks between them," he writes.
  • For the "Trump blimp," we will soon find out whether this is "a small leak that he can patch over in plenty of time for New Hampshire or whether it's a catastrophic hole that will bring the whole enterprise down," writes Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post, noting that it's bad news for Trump that the latter scenario is even being discussed.
  • More bad news for Trump: Analysts had predicted that he would win if there was a high turnout in Iowa, but his loss came amid a record-breaking turnout of around 180,000 GOP caucus-goers, up 60,000 people from the record set in 2012, the Des Moines Register reports.
  • Trump congratulated Cruz in what CNN describes as a "short but gracious" speech. "We will go on to get the Republican nomination and we will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie," he told supporters. "We finished second, and I have to say I am just honored."
  • Cruz, meanwhile, was still on the offensive, saying the result "sent notice that the Republican nominee and the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media, will not be chosen by the Washington establishment."
  • Cruz and his campaign "invested considerable time and money to grind out a victory in this key state, and they were ultimately rewarded for their efforts," notes Anthony Zurcher at the BBC, who predicts that while Trump will no doubt remain a factor, the next big showdown will be between Cruz and Rubio.