New York Businessman and frontrunner of the Republican primary polls, Donald Trump, suffered a heavy blow at the Iowa Caucus vote, coming second with 24 percent, 4 points behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 28 percent and almost tied with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio who garnered an astounding 23 percent of the caucus-goers votes.
But how exactly did the long-standing front-runner of the Republican nomination race, who was leading in 10 different polls until last week, lose the big momentum at the first and crucial official vote of the primary elections?
1. The evangelical vote
By far the main group that delivered Cruz’s victory in Iowa was the Republican evangelical vote. Cruz received more than twice as many votes than Donald Trump from this group, which made up 64 percent of GOP Iowa caucus voters, up 7 points from 2012. Ted Cruz has been courting the Christian vote throughout the debates. He started his last rally in Iowa by stating, “Let me first say, To God be the glory.” He then added that “Our rights do not come from the Democratic Party, or the Republican Party or even the Tea Party – our rights come from our Creator.”
2. Failing to convince strong conservatives
Cruz garnered the support of 40 percent of Republicans who identify as “very conservative.” Similarly to his tactics with the evangelical Republicans, Cruz has been courting the very conservative segment of the party by presenting himself as a man of traditional values, juxtaposing that image to what he called Trump’s “cosmopolitan New York values.” Cruz said that his win was a “victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and the U.S.” Trump performed better with “somewhat conservative” Republicans, winning 24 percent of this group’s vote over Cruz’s 19 percent and even better with moderates, garnering 34 percent of their votes. However these groups were smaller in number, in comparison to the very conservatives who made up 40 percent of the caucus-goers.
3. First times voters ‘disappoint’
Despite the fact that Trump’s style has brought many newcomers to the primary race, only 3 in 10 first time voters said that they arrived at the caucus to support Trump. Cruz and Rubio, each, achieved support from around 20 percent of this group, which made up almost half of caucus-goers. On the other hand, Cruz enjoyed a comfortable lead of 10 points among regular caucus-goers.
4. Skipping Fox News Debate
Trump’s decision to skip the last Republican Debate at Iowa divided analysts between those who considered it as a brilliant tactic and other who believed that this move was a grave mistake. With the benefit of hindsight, both Fox News and The Huffington Post have argued that it was the latter. Trump’s lead shrank in polls after the debate, and may have even sent him to third place. Before the Iowa Republican debate Trump held a lead of 6.2 points on average. Immediately after the debate his lead shrank to 3.2 percent. Fox’s John Roberts said that Trump “May come to rue the day that he did not show up for the final debate on Thursday night,” whereas former White House press secretary Dana Perino argued that Trump’s defeat “Is a direct result from the debate last Thursday.”
5. Marco Rubio’s surprise result
Florida Senator Marco Rubio came only one point behind Trump, dramatically narrowing down the lead that the businessman enjoyed in recent polls over him. Marco Rubio’s strong performance practically puts him in a three-man race for the Republican nomination. Rubio said to a crowd gathered outside his headquarters in Iowa, “This is the moment they said would never happen.” Rubio has been trailing behind in all polls which may have induced a sense of complacency towards him among Trump’s campaign. This result is expected to shift Trump’s rhetoric and tactics towards Florida’s Senator bid.