Marco Rubio didn’t win the night in Iowa, coming in third at the caucuses with 23 percent behind Donald Trump at 24 percent and Ted Cruz at 28 percent. But he certainly set his campaign on a positive trajectory as the race heads to New Hampshire.
The Florida senator was the clear favorite of caucus-goers who were most concerned about electability. He took 43 percent among voters who said winning the general election in November was their most important candidate quality.
He also won about four-in-10 of those caucus-goers who valued political experience over outsider status.
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Rubio’s performance tonight was better than nearly all the pre-election polls had predicted. The NBC News Entrance Poll found he had a slight edge among voters who only made up their minds in the last few days - garnering 29 percent of this group’s support compared to 24 percent for Ted Cruz and 14 percent for Donald Trump.
There was no clear preference, though, among voters who generally see themselves as independents or Democrats rather than Republican partisans. Rubio and Trump each took 22 percent of this group’s support while Cruz nearly matched them with 19 percent.
It is worth noting that these non-Republican voters comprised less than one-quarter of tonight’s Iowa caucus electorate, but they will make up a much larger share of the vote in New Hampshire next week.
– Patrick Murray
This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.