MANCHESTER – [AP] Hillary Clinton narrowly won the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, outpacing a surprisingly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders to claim the first victory in the 2016 race for president.
The former secretary of state and first lady edged past the Vermont senator in a race the Iowa Democratic Party called the closest in its caucus history.
The party said on Tuesday it would not do any recount of the close results, and a spokesman for the Sanders campaign said it does not intend to challenge them.
Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats descended on the tiny New England state of New Hampshire, which votes next Tuesday.
For the Republicans, Ted Cruz, a fiery, conservative Texas senator loathed by his own party’s leaders, swept to victory in Iowa over billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
The outcome in the country’s first nominating contest drew a line under voter dissatisfaction, especially among Republicans, with the way government in Washington operates, with anger over growing income inequality and fears of global turmoil and terrorism.
Cruz’s victory in Monday’s caucuses, which drew a record turnout, was a blow to Trump, the real estate mogul who has roiled the Republican field for months with controversial statements about women and minorities.
But Trump still holds a commanding lead in New Hampshire and national polls.
New Hampshire has historically favoured more moderate candidates than Iowa, and more than 40 per cent of the state’s electorate are not registered in any political party.
Cruz suggested he was focused on New Hampshire but also on South Carolina, which votes 11 days later.
Trump came in second slightly ahead of Rubio, whose stronger-than-expected finish could help cement his status as the favourite of mainstream Republican voters who worry that Cruz and Trump are too caustic to win the November general election.
Trump vowed to keep up his fight, telling cheering supporters that ‘we will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw up.’
In the Democratic race, voters must choose between Clinton’s pledge to use her wealth of experience in government to bring about steady progress on party ideals and Sanders’ call for radical change in a system rigged against ordinary Americans. Young voters in Iowa overwhelmingly backed Sanders.
In New Hampshire, Clinton trails Sanders, who is from neighbouring Vermont.
But Sanders still faces an uphill battle against Clinton, who has deep ties throughout the party’s establishment and a strong following among a more diverse electorate that plays a larger role in primary contests in February and March.
Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley ended his longshot bid for the Democratic nomination, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee dropped out of the Republican race.