The real winner in Iowa last night wasn't Cruz, Trump, or Clinton. HINT: It was us.

As the Iowa caucus wrapped up last night, America was hard-pressed to find a real winner.

The caucus, which was the first (and weirdest) nominating event in the 2016 presidential campaign, let America know definitively ... that we don't really know anything.


Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Ted Cruz took home a victory on the Republican side in Iowa, but his win was preceded by interestingly victorious speeches from Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, who came in second and third, respectively.

On the Democratic side, the race remained too close to call all evening, with some media outlets calling it for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Martin O'Malley and Mike Huckabee, who both received single-digit vote percentages, also announced that they were ending their campaigns.

It was an eventful couple of hours.

The real victory, though, went to voter turnout.

With democracy, the catch is that it only really works when people show up. Apparently the voters in Iowa understand that pretty clearly, since voter turnout was record-breaking.

Roughly 182,000 people showed up to Republican caucus events, which shattered the previous record of 122,000 back in 2012.

The Democrats threw a well-attended caucus party as well. One precinct in Des Moines had so many people that lines spilled out into the hallways, and non-participating observers were asked to leave to make space.

Caucus-goers waiting in Des Moines. Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images.

Several caucus sights even had to print more ballots so that everyone could participate:


It's not just about how many voters showed up. It's who showed up, and why.

According to data from The Washington Post, about 4 in 10 caucus-goers said they were attending a caucus for the first time.

Of those first-time caucus voters, 6 in 10 said they supported Bernie Sanders.

Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images.

This high voter turnout is reminiscent of 2008, when a surge of young voters and first-time caucus-goers showed up to Iowa and gave Barack Obama a handy victory.

Democratic Iowa voters also told the Washington Post what qualities matter most to them in a candidate: For Clinton, it was her experience and ability to beat the Republican nominee in November. For Sanders, it was his honesty and the perception that he cares more about the American people.

On the Republican side, Cruz emerged with a majority of support from men aged 45-64. He also received a lot of votes from the born-again Christian population in Iowa, thanks in part to the campaigning efforts of his father, a Texas pastor.

Ted Cruz hugging his father, Rafael Cruz. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

The Iowa caucus is over, but the games have just begun. Now, attention is on the New Hampshire primary.

All of the remaining candidates are headed to New Hampshire, where they will participate in the nation's first primary election.

There they will all face a brand-new set of voters — more moderate and, overall, less religious than their supporters in Iowa. Fresh off his victory, Cruz will have to play catch-up in New Hampshire, as he has spent relatively little time and effort there.

Clinton and Sanders will also face their first vote without O'Malley in the mix.

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images.

Unlike the strange Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary will be a one person/one vote election. The twists and turns aren't over, and we still have a long way to go. But if you want to have an impact on these races ... it's time to get involved.

The primaries are a long and arduous process. What matters most is that people make their voices heard. Candidates are supposed to be representatives of the people. So when you cast your vote, or stand up and voice your opinion, you really are the true winner.

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