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After Iowa: Rubio, Sanders, Trump All Have Big Opportunities in New Hampshire

Following the caucuses, candidates head to New Hampshire where Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump stand a good chance of making up ground.

by Sarah Mimms
Feb 2 2016, 3:35pm

Photo by John Taggart/EPA

It was a close call for Hillary Clinton on Monday night. She nearly suffered another loss in the Iowa caucuses, where in 2008 her campaign got handed a defeat in an early sign of its eventual doom.

This time she eked out a victory, by a mere 0.2 percentage points, over her Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders — but Tuesday's headlines spelled bad news for Clinton. She should have won by a massive margin against a self-proclaimed Socialist, but instead Sanders has proven to be competitive against the once-assumed frontrunner. Sanders called the race a "virtual tie" Monday night and when delegates are assigned in Iowa is expected to trail Clinton by just one.

On the Republican side, Sen. Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump by 28-24 percent, pulling off an upset victory over the New Yorker, who had often led in Iowa polling. Given the energy and media attention given to Trump's campaign, the loss will raise questions about his ability to go the distance and particularly about his ground game. Caucus-goers in several precincts in Iowa on voting night reported no sign of a Trump precinct captain to try to persuade voters to support him.

But perhaps the biggest winner of the night aside from Cruz, was Sen. Marco Rubio, who is hoping to coalesce the establishment Republican vote around his campaign. Rubio pulled in a solid third-place finish on Monday, falling just a single point behind Trump. With other establishment favorites, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich, earning less than 3 percent of the vote last night, the anti-Trump and anti-Cruz coalition could turn to Rubio as a savior.

Related: Cruz Surges to Victory, Takes Iowa Ahead of Trump

Now the candidates turn to New Hampshire, where neither Clinton nor Cruz stands a strong chance of winning the second contest in 2016. Both Sanders and Donald Trump hold 20-point leads in recent polling in the state, though those numbers could shift in the wake of the Iowa results. The race will be a major proving ground for both campaigns, as well as for Rubio, while with expectations set low Cruz and perhaps Clinton will have an easier ride. Bush, Christie and Kasich, meanwhile, will have to prove that they can compete.

But the race in Iowa isn't completely over just yet. The state Democratic party has called the race for Clinton, but Sanders has yet to concede and has asked the party to release the vote counts for each precinct, amid claims that the party failed to provide oversight at 90 precinct locations in Iowa on Monday night. An actual recount, given the oddities of Iowa's caucus system, is impossible. But Sanders hopes to get a final accounting of what happened in some precincts Monday night.

"I can only hope and expect that the count will be honest," Sanders said aboard a flight headed to New Hampshire last night, according to the Guardian. "I have no idea. Did we win the popular vote? I don't know, but as much information as possible should be made available."

There were two casualties of the presidential race last night: former governors Martin O'Malley and Mike Huckabee both dropped out as results came in. The loss was particularly stinging for Huckabee, who took just 1.8 percent of the vote on Monday after winning the caucuses in 2008. But the ever-cheerful Huckabee still found room in his concession speech last night for a joke, saying that he was ending his campaign due to illness. "Voters are sick of me," he said.

Related: Martin O'Malley Surprises No One, Suspends Campaign After Finishing a Distant Third

Follow Sarah Mimms on Twitter @SarahMMimms

Watch the VICE News documentary: America's Election 2016: Immigrant Iowa

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