After a month of bruising attacks and sliding poll numbers, Ted Cruz is back on track.
The Texas senator pulled off a major victory in Iowa Monday night, winning the Republican caucuses with 28 percent support, four points ahead of billionaire real-estate mogul Donald Trump, who had been needling Cruz for weeks over his Canadian birthplace and Wall Street loans, and five points ahead of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whom no Iowa poll nor frontrunner perceived as a real threat in the Hawkeye State.
Cruz’s win was owed in large part to evangelical voters, who consistently play an outsize role in the first-in-the-nation nominating contest. More than 60 percent of Republican caucus-goers identified as evangelical Christians, according to entrance poll data, and Cruz won over about a third of them.
A loss in Iowa, while not fatal, would have been disastrous for Cruz.
“It was almost a must-win for Cruz,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “Part of it is the outsize evangelical population of Iowa, but also the caucus format – he was tailor-made for Iowa. If he couldn’t win there, it might of been a damaging blow to his chances.”