- Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio rain on Donald Trump's parade as Iowa defies polls
- Rubio and the neocon supremacy
- Why the Iowa caucuses matter
Des Moines, Iowa: You could argue that Donald Trump managed to lose on Monday night not just to the first place winner, Ted Cruz, but to Marco Rubio, who came in third.
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Ted Cruz declares victory in Iowa
Texas Senator Ted Cruz sweeps to victory in Iowa's Republican caucuses, overcoming billionaire Donald Trump and Marco Rubio.
Rubio's third place might well turn out to be the most significant single result of the Iowa caucuses for Republicans.
The Republican Party is in crisis as a direct result of the pressures that have built up within its ranks through the long phony war leading up to this first race of the election season.
Early last year the party's Washington establishment and its donor class had expected to see a nomination race among people they liked or at least understood - governors and former governors, maybe the odd distinguished senator. First among equals was to be Jeb Bush, brother and son of presidents, former governor of Florida.
But the party's angry base ignored the establishment and Wall Street too, and instead fell in love with the insurgents Cruz and Trump.
Cruz's colleagues in Washington loathe him and are certain they cannot work with him. They cannot fathom Trump, and even if they cared to, they do not believe he can beat Hillary Clinton, who they still expect to win the Democratic nomination.
As the Iowa caucuses approached it was clear that neither of these candidates could be wished away by the Republican establishment. They maintained healthy leads for weeks, though Trump was expected to beat Cruz according to the most recent reliable polling.
Monday night's result gives that establishment an alternative in Rubio. Most recent polling had him capturing between 15 and 17 per cent of the vote, behind Trump and Cruz in the mid and high 20s.
According to late night counts on Monday, he had secured 23 per cent of the vote to Trump's 24.
This was the performance of the night, and a blessed relief to those Republicans seeking a figure to rally behind if they are to wrest control of the race back from Cruz and Trump.
Rubio clearly saw his performance as a victory too.
"They told me that we have no chance because my hair wasn't grey enough and my boots were too high," Rubio said to cheering supporters. His first point reinforced his campaign theme of generational change, his second was a reference to mockery he received over a pair of dashing black booties he wore on the hustings.
"Now the moment has arrived for this generation of Americans to rise up to the calling of our heritage," he went on.
Rubio should not be mistaken for a moderate. His views mark him as a traditionally - even deeply - conservative Republican. He has abandoned any urges he once had for immigration reform, opposes abortion in any circumstances and has assembled a foreign affairs team of hawkish neo-conservatives.
Bush, who managed to round up $US100 million in donations in the early weeks of the campaign - enough to force Mitt Romney to back out of the race before he got into it - secured just 2.8 per cent.
Rubio will now rightly make a claim for whatever establishment support Bush - his former mentor - still commands. The party might soon have to orchestrate a suitably dignified exit for its favoured son.
The results are less illuminating for the Democrats.
Clinton appears to have held on, just, and for this she will be thankful. Though she remains dominant, Bernie Sanders' campaign has proved to be not only professional and powerful, it is taking on the air of a movement, just as Barack Obama's campaign did eight years ago.
Sanders will likely defeat her in the next race in New Hampshire, where he has long polled significantly higher than her.
After that she expects to surge ahead of him in southern states where she outpolls him among larger black and Hispanic communities, and where the Clinton political machine has deeper roots.
But there was one loss on Monday night that must have hurt her. In 2008, Clinton came a humiliating third in Iowa in a loss that made people reassess the campaign of Obama, a junior senator from Illinois.
Campaigners nicknamed one suburb of Des Moines, Beaverdale, 'Obamadale' for the strength of his organisation and massive win there.
She was determined to win Obamadale this time around and spent a considerable amount of her own time on the hustings, determined to meet each of the residents.
Now, 254 votes to 220, it is Berniedale.