By Zeke J Miller, Alex Altman, Charlotte Alter, and TIME
February 2, 2016

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa Republican caucuses Monday night, cementing his status as the conservative front-runner and top rival to Donald Trump in the first contest of the 2016 presidential election.

Tens of thousands of Iowans cast the first votes of 2016, with reports of record turnout on the Republican side and high turnout in the Democratic race. The contest was set to winnow a wide and fractured Republican field and provide a key test in the Democratic race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

With about 99% of precincts reporting in the Republican race, Ted Cruz had 28% of the vote, compared to 24% for Trump.

“The Republican nominee and the next President of the United States will not be chosen by the media,” Cruz, who is running as a proud scourge of GOP leaders, told cheering supporters in Des Moines. “Will not be chosen by the Washington establishment. Will not be chosen by the lobbyists.”

“Whatever Washington says, they cannot keep the people down,” Cruz added. “Courageous conservatives said, ‘yes we can.’”

What appeared to be huge turnout in the Republican race should have benefited Trump, whose campaign hoped high turnout would mean the billionaire businessman was drawing first-time caucus-goers to the process. But it didn’t turn out that way.

“We never thought Cruz could do this well at this turnout,” an official with a rival campaign said.

Addressing supporters in West Des Moines, Trump congratulated Cruz and thanked the people of Iowa. “We love you. We thank you. We will be back, many, many times. In fact, I might come here and buy a farm,” Trump said. And he looked forward to the next contest, where he continues to lead in the polls: “On to New Hampshire. So long, everybody.”

Marco Rubio was close behind Trump in third place with 23%, in line with where his campaign had set expectations after a late surge, but closer to the front of the pack than many had expected. And as he looks to consolidate establishment support after the race moves past Iowa, news broke that popular South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, whose state votes later this month, will endorse Rubio.

Addressing enthusiastic supporters in Des Moines, Rubio gave what amounted to a victory speech.

“So this is the moment they said would never happen,” Rubio said. “The people of this state have sent a clear message. After seven years of Barack Obama, we aren’t waiting any longer.”

Rubio used the speech, broadcast live nationwide, to make a clear argument that he is the most electable Republican. “When I am our nominee, we will unite our party, we will grow our party, and we will defeat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders,” he said.

The results quickly narrowed the race. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa caucus winner who never contended seriously this time, dropped out before Cruz was declared the victor.

“I am officially suspending my campaign,” he said on Twitter. “Thank you for all your loyal support.”

 

With additional reporting by Tessa Berenson in Urbandale, Philip Elliott in West Des Moines, and Sam Frizell in Des Moines

A version of this article was originally published on Time.com.

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