DES MOINES, Iowa (Christian Examiner) – Evangelicals helped carry Ted Cruz to a surprising victory in the Iowa Republican caucuses Monday night, although they were far from unified in their preferred candidate.
With frontrunner Donald Trump leading in every pre-election poll, Cruz carried 34 percent of the vote of Republicans who identify as evangelical or born-again Christians, a group that comprised 64 percent of Republican voters according to entrance polls. Trump won 22 percent and Marco Rubio 21 percent among evangelicals, with Ben Carson (12 percent) being the only other GOP candidate to reach double digits.
Among all caucus attendees, Cruz won 28 percent, Trump, 24 percent and Rubio 23 percent. Trump led Cruz by an average of 4.7 percent in the RealClearPolitics.com average of Iowa polls, although two weekend surveys showed Cruz cutting Trump's lead to one point, with Rubio surging.
All eyes now turn to New Hampshire and its first-in-the-nation primary next Tuesday.
"God bless the great state of Iowa!" Cruz told an enthusiastic crowd of supporters. "Let me first of all say, to God be the glory. Tonight is a victory for the grassroots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and all across this great nation."
Cruz added, "Iowa has 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, will not be chosen by the lobbyists, but will be chosen ... by we the people."
Entrance polls also showed that:
- Cruz carried 38 percent of voters who said their top candidate quality was someone who "shares my values." Rubio won 21 percent of that bloc, Carson 15 percent, and Trump 5 percent.
- Rubio (44 percent) won among Republicans who said the most important quality was someone who could win the general election. Trump carried 24 percent, Cruz 22 percent.
- Cruz (44 percent) won among GOP voters who consider themselves "very conservative," Rubio (29 percent) among those who call themselves "somewhat conservative," and Trump (34 percent) among Republicans who label themselves moderate.
Although Cruz won the night, Rubio also exceeded expectations. He averaged 16.9 percent in pre-election surveys but finished five points better than that and nearly edged Trump for second place.
"I want to thank an all-powerful and mighty God for the chance that He has given us to be part of this endeavor," Rubio told supporters, saying America's "identity as a nation" and "a people" are at stake in 2016.
"We have taken the first step but an important step" toward winning the nomination, Rubio said.
Entrance polls did not ask Democratic caucus-goers about their faith.
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