MANCHESTER, N.H. — Hillary Clinton narrowly won the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, outpacing a surprisingly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders to claim the first victory in the 2016 race for president.
The former secretary of state and first lady edged past the Vermont senator in a race the Iowa Democratic Party called the closest in its caucus history.
The party said Tuesday it would not do any recount of the close results, and a spokesman for the Sanders campaign said it does not intend to challenge them.
For the Republicans, Ted Cruz, a fiery, conservative Texas senator loathed by his own party’s leaders, swept to victory over billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Next up for candidates from both parties is the tiny New England state of New Hampshire, which votes next Tuesday.
Cruz’s victory in Iowa was a blow to Trump, the real estate mogul who has roiled the Republican field for months with controversial statements about women and minorities.
But Trump still holds a commanding lead in New Hampshire and national polls.
New Hampshire has historically favoured more moderate candidates than Iowa, and more than 40 per cent of the state’s electorate are not registered in any political party.
Cruz on Tuesday suggested he was focused on New Hampshire but also on South Carolina, which votes 11 days later.
Trump came in second slightly ahead of Rubio, whose stronger-than-expected finish could help cement his status as the favourite of mainstream Republican voters who worry that Cruz and Trump are too caustic to win the November general election.
Trump vowed to keep up his fight, telling cheering supporters that “we will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw up.”
In the Democratic race, voters must choose between Clinton’s pledge to use her wealth of experience in government to bring about steady progress on party ideals and Sanders’ call for radical change in a system rigged against ordinary Americans. Young voters in Iowa overwhelmingly backed Sanders.
In New Hampshire, Clinton trails Sanders, who is from neighbouring Vermont.
But Sanders still faces an uphill battle against Clinton, who has deep ties throughout the party’s establishment and a strong following among a more diverse electorate that plays a larger role in primary contests in February and March.
Clinton’s victory in Iowa means she will collect 23 delegates and Sanders will win 21. With her advantage in superdelegates — the party officials who can support the candidate of their choice — Clinton now has a total of 385 delegates. Sanders has 29.
It takes 2,382 delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president.
Some of the establishment Republican candidates have been focusing more on New Hampshire than Iowa, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The caucuses marked the end of at least two candidates’ White House hopes. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley ended his longshot bid for the Democratic nomination, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee dropped out of the Republican race.