DES MOINES, Tuesday
The race to succeed US President Barack Obama has started in earnest, with the first ballots being cast in party primaries in the state of Iowa.
In the votes cast on Monday, Democrat Hillary Clinton battled into a virtual tie with rival Bernie Sanders in the race for the party ticket.
Mr Ted Cruz felled long-time Republican frontrunner Donald Trump to win the State for the Grand Old Party
Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and American mother, will be leaving the White House at the end of his eight year rule in February.
Republicans in Iowa, a rural midwestern state backed the ultraconservative Cruz for their party’s nomination, leaving a humbled Trump in second place just ahead of Senator Marco Rubio, according to nearly complete results given by the party.
Iowans flocked to churches, gymnasiums and libraries to be the first voices officially heard in the boisterous months-long nominating process that leads to November 8 elections.
“To God be the glory!” exclaimed Cruz, claiming victory with 27.7 per cent of the vote and staking his claim to be the new standard bearer of the right.
“Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and across this great nation,” he said, clearly pleased that his heavy investment in campaigning in the conservative state had paid off.
For Trump, a modest vote tally — just above 24 per cent — raised deep questions about whether showmanship can take him all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The real estate mogul who has centred his campaign around being a “winner” tried to brush off the steep loss, saying he had been given no chance to win Iowa at the outset.
“I was told by everybody, ‘Do not go to Iowa. You couldn’t finish in the top 10’,” he told supporters. “I said ‘I have to do it’.”
Rubio, whose star has risen in recent weeks, tried to capitalise on a strong showing and his status as the top mainstream Republican. He earned more than 23 per cent.
“Tonight, here in Iowa, the people of this great state sent a very clear message,” he said, training his fire on Democrats. “Tonight, we have taken the first step but an important step towards winning this election.”
Iowa Democrats also showed their doubt in their party frontrunner, with Clinton in a dead heat with Sanders, who has railed against Wall Street and money in politics.
With more than 95 per cent of precincts reported, Clinton was on 49.9 per cent and Sanders 49.6 per cent.
“What Iowa has begun tonight is a political revolution,” said Sanders, a Vermont senator.
“So you guys ready for a radical idea? Well, so is America. We are going to create an economy that works for working families not just the billionaire class.”
Clinton had been looking to lay to rest the demons of 2008, when she lost in Iowa to Obama, and pursue her quest for history by dealing a solid blow to her upstart challenger.
But she now faces another tough battle in Sanders’ backyard, New Hampshire. The former first lady signalled that would be a bruising battle.
“It is rare that we have the opportunity we do now, to have a real contest of ideas — to really think hard about what the Democratic Party stands for and what we want the future of our country to look like,” she said.
Experts had predicted that high turnout would benefit outsiders, who have dominated the race so far. And so it proved.
For many long-shot candidates, Iowa has spelled the end of the road.
Republican Mick Huckabee announced he was dropping out. Democrat Martin O’Malley said he would follow suit.
Fourth place Ben Carson denied reports he was dropping out of the race, according to spokesman Larry Ross.