Published February 1, 2016 by FoxNews.com
Ted Cruz won the Iowa Republican caucuses Monday night, Fox News projects, beating front-runner Donald Trump in a victory that could shake up the primary race.
Hillary Clinton is meanwhile clinging to a narrow lead over Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.
Cruz , in his race, fought hard in recent weeks to make up lost ground in the polls and was helped in part by a sophisticated ground operation. He also hammered Trump for his decision to skip last week’s Republican debate in Iowa.
While Trump finished second in the state, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio finished a very close third with a stronger-than-expected showing in the Hawkeye State. Entrance polls showed Trump dominating among first-time caucus-goers. But Rubio was leading among late-deciders.
With nearly all precincts reporting, Cruz had 28 percent, Trump had 24 percent and Rubio had 23 percent.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Clinton has held a very slim lead over Sanders.
They show her holding onto a 50-49 percentage point lead.
Entrance polls show Clinton leading among seniors, and Sanders leading among young voters.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who was pulling in about 1 percent support, is planning to suspend his campaign later Monday night, Fox News has learned. And on the GOP side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also plans to suspend his campaign.
2/1/2016 Related Story: Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley Suspends 2016 Presidential Campaign
Interest and turnout appeared to be high on both sides. Republican officials report that several caucus sites were remaining open longer to accommodate long lines; some even ran out of registration forms or ballots.
Technically at stake are 30 Republican delegates and 44 Democratic delegates.
But even more important than the delegate count is the momentum a candidate – especially a surprise winner – can get out of a victory.
On the Democratic side, Sanders has fought to close a nearly 30-point polling gap this past summer, and has since drawn the race to a dead heat in Iowa.
With Sanders leading comfortably in the polls in the next-up contest in New Hampshire, the pressure is heavy on Clinton to secure an Iowa win.
“If Sanders wins, he goes 2 and 0 in the first two contests. That puts Clinton in a tough spot. But if she wins tonight, it gives her a shot at New Hampshire,” Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh said.
On the Republican side, Cruz has risen from the middle of the pack last year to essentially a co-leader in the state alongside Trump. His victory disrupts Trump’s front-runner narrative and could jolt the GOP race, where candidates have struggled for months to arrest Trump’s rise.
The Iowa caucuses have had a mixed record in recent cycles, particularly on the Republican side, in picking the eventual nominees.
The GOP caucus winners in 2008 and 2012 were Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum , respectively, neither of whom won the nomination. Both also are struggling in their presidential bids this year.
Eight years ago, though, then-Sen. Barack Obama’s Iowa win in the Democratic race helped set him on the trajectory to claim his party’s nomination and, then, the presidency.
This story has been updated.Follow @FortySixNews