(NEWSER)  – In an outcome that few analysts predicted, Donald Trump is not only a loser in Iowa, coming second to Ted Cruz, he came within a whisker of being knocked into third place by Marco Rubio. Here's what pundits say this means for the GOP nomination race:

  • "The loss raises the possibility that Mr. Trump’s strength is at least partly an illusion; he may not be quite as strong as he looks," writes Nate Cohn at the New York Times. A long, three-way fight probably lies ahead, and Cruz now appears to have "a narrow but real path" to the nomination, involving success in Southern states after next week's New Hampshire primary, he writes. 
  • Rubio's third-place finish is great news for the GOP establishment seeking a clear alternative to both Cruz and Trump, Eli Stokols writes at Politico. Going into New Hampshire, Rubio is on the "sharpest upward trajectory while his two rivals, despite finishing ahead of him, are seeing their support tick down in recent weeks as the result of unrelenting attacks between them," he writes.
  • For the "Trump blimp," we will soon find out whether this is "a small leak that he can patch over in plenty of time for New Hampshire or whether it's a catastrophic hole that will bring the whole enterprise down," writes Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post, noting that it is bad news for Trump that the latter scenario is even being discussed.

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