In the hours before the Iowa caucuses opened, supporters of Marco Rubio began hinting that the Florida senator would perform better than expected — and better than the latest polls were showing.
The Des Moines Register Poll released right before the Iowa caucus showed Rubio at 17 percent, and support was fading in the closing days before the caucus.
Rubio’s team correctly predicted a third place win for their candidate. Few predicted, however, that he would finish one point behind the frontrunner Donald Trump, who had 31 percent in the latest poll but only 24 percent in the caucus results.
The final number for Rubio (with 99 percent of the vote tallied) was 23 percent. According to Rubio advisor Todd Harris, the campaign “blew past” their vote goals early in the night.
Rubio’s performance in Iowa can partially be attributed to Harris, a former senior strategist and media consultant for Iowa Senator Joni Ernst for her win in the 2014 Senate race.
Rubio won first place in five counties in Iowa — major population centers with thousands of votes.
He won Dallas, Polk, and Story counties near the Des Moines area, as well as Johnson county in Iowa City and Scott County, which includes the city of Davenport.
Those were all counties won by Mitt Romney in 2012 versus Rick Santorum, but Romney won 16 of the state’s 99 counties.
More important is that in a three way race, the delegates in the state will be split fairly evenly.
The numbers that matter tonight: 8-7-7 Delegate allotment tonight for 3 top vote getters, Rubio’s campaign manager Terry Sullivan noted after Cruz was declared the winner.
The Fox News Caucus entrance polls were remarkably close, predicting Cruz to get 26 percent, Trump 24 percent, and Rubio 21 percent. They also showed that 28 percent of late deciders entering the caucus swung to Rubio, as opposed to Cruz at 20 and Trump at 14.
The exit polls showed that Cruz won 44 percent of voters who identified themselves as “very conservative,” but Rubio won the majority of voters who considered themselves “somewhat conservative,” at 29 percent. Trump led among moderates, 34 percent.