Ahead of the Iowa caucuses, many thought Cruz had sabotaged himself with farmers by attacking ethanol, but number crunching by the Washington Post shows where the top three Republican candidates landed with different segments of Iowa voters.
The data analysis shows, (with some beautiful visuals) that Cruz and, to a lesser extent Trump, hit their marks with Republican caucusgoers in counties with more agriculture-related jobs, while Marco Rubio resonated with urban Iowans with more formal education.
Reporter Jeff Guo says, "farming is still a big industry for Iowa, and Cruz did especially well in counties where a large fraction of people worked in agriculture. Rubio, on the other hand, struggled in places where farming is a big part of the community. Trump did, more or less, equally well in counties with a lot of farming and counties with relatively little of it."
The data also suggests that Cruz and Trump's wins were also in rural counties with declining populations over the past decade, while Rubio gained in counties with growing populations.
"This final graph may be the most telling of all," says Guo. And on its face, that may be alarming for supporters of Cruz or Trump.
Still, despite their shrinking populations, it was those rural counties that gave Cruz and Trump a combined 51.9 percent of the vote in Iowa.
But Rubio’s third-place showing also indicates he was unable to engage the majority of Iowans, because the majority of Iowans live in rural America, many working agricultural jobs. Cruz seems to have figured out how to connect with those everyday working people, at least in the Hawkeye state.
And that is an important lesson, as there are many more agriculturally driven states that still stand between here and the Republican National Convention in July.