U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a favorite of the religious right, has won the Iowa Republican caucus.
Cruz, who has a strong antigay record (and was named The Advocate's Phobie of the Year in 2014), apparently won over enough of Iowa's evangelicals to beat businessman Donald Trump, who has been the national front-runner through most of the campaign. Cruz won 27.6 percent of the vote, Trump 24.3 percent, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida 23.1 percent, according to final results posted Tuesday morning by The Des Moines Register.
Iowa's 30 Republican delegates will be distributed proportionally among the leading candidates. According to the Register, this means eight for Cruz; seven each for Rubio and Trump; three for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who received 9.3 percent of the vote; and one each for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who got 4.5 percent, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who got 2.8 percent. The remaining delegates are still to be distributed.
To win the Republican nomination, a candidate needs 1,237 delegates, out of 2,472 available.
The other Republican candidates all came in with less than 2 percent of the vote. They are Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum, and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
Huckabee, another deeply antigay candidate, is suspending his campaign. Huckabee won the Iowa caucus in 2008, but his campaign failed to gather steam this cycle. He made the announcement via Twitter:
In his victory speech, Cruz opened by saying, "To God be the glory." With his wife, Heidi, and father, the antigay Rev. Rafael Cruz, onstage with him, he promised to promote free-market economics, constitutional principles, and Judeo-Christian values -- the latter two often code terms for opposing LGBT rights. Cruz, who had the backing of many religious right leaders, had previously said the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling "will not stand" if he becomes president, although some hard-core conservatives have seen reason to doubt his commitment to overturning it -- which would require either a constitutional amendment or the Supreme Court hearing another case and ruling differently.
Cruz's victory predictably brought expressions of alarm from LGBT activists and gratification from his far-right supporters. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, released the following statement:
"From threatening to overturn nationwide marriage equality, to campaigning with a notorious 'kill the gays' pastor in Iowa, to using transgender Americans as a punch line on the trail, Ted Cruz has spared no opportunity to attack the dignity and rights of LGBT Americans. Meanwhile, with his promise to appoint judges to overturn nationwide marriage equality and overturn President Obama's executive orders banning LGBT discrimination among federal contractors, Marco Rubio's 'New American Century' looks a lot like the last one. While Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump campaign to take us back, Hillary Clinton is fighting to advance LGBT equality across our country."
Tony Perkins, head of the antigay Family Research Council and a major backer of Cruz, had this to say:
"Ted Cruz is a constitutionalist and will limit himself to the boundaries of the Constitution. Values voters are as concerned as anybody else about the economy and national security but as they drill down further into a candidate, they look at character and faith. As the primaries continue, I believe Ted Cruz is best positioned to capture the support of values voters and the broader GOP electorate."
Trump made a speech expressing his love for Iowa and saying he'll be back. Rubio spoke to supporters after his strong third-place finish, again promising to repeal President Obama's executive orders and see that the Supreme Court is not dominated by liberals if he's elected president. The campaign saw a ramping-up of antigay rhetoric by all three top candidates in the final days before the caucus.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.