The U.S. Republican Party (GOP) is now running a three-man race for the nomination to run for president in 2016, as Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio emerged as the top three in Iowa caucuses Monday. But who will clinch final victory is still anybody's game.
Cruz, the conservative senator from Texas, won Iowa with 27.6 percent of the Republican vote, followed by Trump's 24.3 percent and Rubio's 23.1 percent.
It was a surprise defeat for Trump, the controversial real estate mogul who had been shown in the lead in most polls ahead of the Iowa caucuses. A confident Trump even skipped the crucial GOP presidential debate on Thursday hosted by the Fox News.
Some blamed Trump's boycott of the debate for his loss in Iowa as Fox News has been very popular among conservatives, who also love the debate moderator Megan Kelley whose feuding with Trump led to his decision to opt out of the debate. But being liberal on some issues might have also played a role in Trump's defeat in this very religious state.
Iowa was tailor-made for Cruz's candidacy as it has an outsized evangelical population and it elects the candidate in a caucus format, Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.
On Rubio, O'Connell said his performance "absolutely exceeded expectations."
"The key for Rubio here is to be able to parlay that momentum into at least a second place finish in New Hampshire," O'Connell said.