DES MOINES (WLS) --Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a fiery conservative loathed by his own party's leaders, swept to victory in Iowa's Republican caucuses Monday, overcoming billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were deadlocked in a tight race.
Cruz's victory over Trump was a testament to his massive get-out-the-vote operation in Iowa and the months he spent wooing the state's influential conservative and evangelical leaders. It was also a harsh blow to Trump, the supremely confident real estate mogul who has riled the Republican field for months with controversial statements about women and minorities.
Even before the results were final, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley ended his longshot bid for the Democratic nomination. So did Huckabee on the Republican side.
The Iowa caucuses kicked off voting in the 2016 presidential race, a tumultuous contest with unexpected candidates challenging both the Republican and Democratic establishments.
LIVE COVERAGE: The Iowa Caucuses from ABC News
At a downtown Des Moines precinct Monday night, even experienced caucusers said they had never had to wait this long.
"I actually caucused for Obama eight years ago on this very spot and it wasn't this long," said Crystal, a Democrat caucuser.
So the caucuses here began much later than the legal 7 p.m. start time.
"I have never seen anything, absolutely nothing to compare to this," said John Kaiser, a caucus volunteer.
The candidates sent speakers to as many of the nearly 1,700 meetings around the state as possible. At each one, neighbors tried to persuade neighbors.
"Who is best-prepared to be commander in chief on day one?" said Annie Kelly, a Jeb Bush supporter.
The Iowa Caucus is not considered a definitive predictor of each party's presidential candidates - while then-Senator Barack Obama's win in 2008 was the first step in clearing the path to his nomination and presidency, recent Republican winners in Iowa include Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, whose campaigns fizzled well before primary season was over. But a strong showing in Iowa is considered an indicator that a campaign is viable.
CHICAGOANS VOLUNTEER AT IOWA CAUCUSES
Volunteers from Chicago were in Iowa Monday, knocking on every last door for votes in advance of the Iowa caucus.
Tyler Sadonis is a self-described "political nerd." He drove from Wicker Park to Des Moines to canvass a neighborhood on caucus day.
"I think if I were to stay in Chicago and miss out on being in Iowa for the Iowa caucus, I would kick myself for missing out," Sadnois says.
Neal Sales-Griffin, of Hyde Park, and his Facebook friend Behice Ilhan rented a car to drive to Des Moines as they try to turn out voters for Democrat Bernie Sanders.
"We're about to head out and talk to more people. It's been all about the grassroots for Bernie," says Sales-Griffin.
Turnout will be key at the caucuses when neighbors gather Monday night in nearly 1,700 separate meetings in each precinct in the state's 99 counties. The caucuses begin promptly at 7 p.m.
"They will jockey back and forth; discuss, debate, negotiate," says Jeff Morgan of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.
"They lock the doors, you can't get in," says Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia. "And in order for your vote to count you have to stick around until that takes place."
Commissioner Garcia is among the thousands of outsiders working around the state to get Iowans to participate. All the campaigns are focused on first timers.
"I just think it's the right thing to do," says Susan Coon of Grimes, Iowa, who is caucusing for the first time this year. "I haven't done it. I want to have that experience."
Social media could also drive younger voters to the caucuses.
"I think there's a battle of the thumbs going on tonight to get them to caucus and cast a vote," says David Yespen of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.