Iowans pick Huckabee and Obama, endorsing change
Caucus results shake up the race for the White House in both parties.
DES MOINES, IOWA
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Amid record turnout, both men won over significant portions of Iowa caucusgoers by preaching change and presenting charismatic personas that struck voters as authentic. Mr. Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, made up for a lack of money and a small organization with the fervor of his supporters, many of them evangelical Christians like him. Mr. Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, also enjoyed the most spirited support in his party, drawing massive crowds at rallies and reaching out successfully to young people, independents, and even some Republicans.
"Tonight we proved that American politics still is in the hands of ordinary folks like you," Huckabee said, reflecting the populist bent of his campaign.
Obama's victory speech highlighted his goal of ending divisiveness: "We are one nation," he said. "We are one people and our time for change has come."
The two victors won handily: Huckabee took 34 percent of the Republican vote, versus 25 percent for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and 13 percent each for former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a favorite among libertarian-leaning Republicans and a fundraising phenom in the fourth quarter of 2007, came in with 10 percent.
Obama won 38 percent of the Democratic delegates at stake, against 30 percent for former Sen. John Edwards and 29 percent for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson came in a distant fourth, with 2 percent. Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Christopher Dodd barely registered any delegates in a Democratic caucus system that requires candidates to meet a 15 percent threshold of initial support to even qualify for delegates. Both senators dropped out of the race late Thursday night, fulfilling Iowa's usual role of winnowing the field.
Both of Iowa's winners, who trailed here until relatively recently, positioned themselves as anti-establishment. Huckabee has never served in Washington, and Obama, the youngest candidate in both fields at 46, has been in the Senate only three years. As an African-American, Obama also cuts a different figure from the usual white male candidate.
But first and foremost, analysts say, it was the desire for change that propelled both men to victory.
"And it's about authenticity," says Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster not affiliated with any presidential candidate. "It's a buzzword, but the truth is that Romney and Clinton looked to voters like their positions were dictated by polls, not principles.... I'm not saying it's true, but it does seem to be what voters thought."
Also, Mr. Mellman adds, the subtext of Obama's message on his banner – "Change you can believe in" – seemed to be on purpose. "He's saying you can believe what he says," implying that Senator Clinton cannot be believed, Mellman says.