DES MOINES — A jubilant Ted Cruz celebrated his victory in the first contest of the 2016 Republican presidential race, "God bless the great state of Iowa."
Cruz took 28 percent of the vote. Businessman Donald Trump, who has led the polls in Iowa and nationally through much of the campaign season, took 24 percent, while Rubio took 23 percent.
Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson finished a distant fourth.
"Do you know what scares the Washington cartel?" Cruz asked. When the crowd shouted "You!" Cruz replied, "I don't scare them in the tiniest bit... What scares them as you."
The Texas senator declared that the "Reagan coalition is back," an assembly of evangelicals, Tea Party conservatives, libertarians and Reagan Democrats that the Iowa caucus winner promised to lead to victory in the Republican primaries and November.
Like the past three Iowa winners, Cruz relied heavily on the evangelical vote. His victory speech was heavy with references to scripture and hymns.
"To God be the glory," Cruz said. He later added we "endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning. Morning is coming!"
Cruz told the cheering audience, "Our rights do not come from the Democrat Party or the Republican Party or even the Tea Party. They come from our Creator."
"Tonight is a victory for the grassroots," Cruz said. "Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives." He celebrated "the most votes ever cast for a Republican [Iowa caucus] winner."
Cruz bet his entire campaign on winning Iowa, and the gamble paid off. He set a record for the most votes ever cast for a candidate in the Iowa caucuses.
Trump in his speech congratulated Cruz, adding that he loves Iowa and that he would be in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Heading into the caucuses, polls gave Trump the edge, but ultimately strong turnout by evangelicals, a sophisticated ground game, and a dogged campaigning pace helped propel Cruz.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul grabbed 5 percent of the vote, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took 3 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, 2008 winner and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie all finished with 2 percent of the vote.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucus in 2012, got just 1 percent of the vote.
Huckabee's poor showing was enough for him to drop out of the race, he announced on Twitter Monday night.
Leading up to Monday night's caucuses, Cruz supporters were consistent in saying that he was the most dependable conservative in the race.
At a campaign rally in Hubbard, Howie Marsh said he was supporting Cruz because he was "the most conservative. I believe he'll do what he says he'll do. A lot guys are conservative when they're running, but I think he'll be conservative when he gets to Washington."
Marsh added that he didn't trust Trump.
Though Trump dominated news coverage of the race and despite the enthusiasm shown at his campaign rallies, his unorthodox turnout operation in the end didn't get enough new voters to the polls, and there was a strong anti-Trump sentiment among those who weren't supporting him. He also skipped the final debate before the Iowa vote after a war of words with Fox News and co-moderator Megyn Kelly.
The big surprise of the night may have come from Rubio, who was neck and neck with Trump, who he trailed heavily going into polls. There were some signs of a late break toward Rubio among voters. That will give him a much-needed boost of momentum as the race moves to New Hampshire's primary election next week.
? Kyle Feldscher contributed to this report.