Iowans pick Huckabee and Obama, endorsing change
Caucus results shake up the race for the White House in both parties.
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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.Skip to next paragraph
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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.
While Obama is now well-positioned to compete in the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8 and beyond that, with fundraising that has kept pace with Clinton's, he is not necessarily favored to win the nomination. Iowa was just the first round; George H.W. Bush came in third in the Iowa caucuses in 1988 and went on to win the White House. But Obama has succeeded in taking the wind out of Clinton's sails and putting to rest any notion that she was the inevitable Democratic nominee. All along, Iowa has been Clinton's weakest state, and Obama can still expect her to be a formidable opponent.
Mr. Edwards faces a steeper climb heading into New Hampshire. He is less well-funded than Obama and Clinton, and in all likelihood needed to win Iowa to gain traction – and money – for the battles ahead. Edwards came in second in the Iowa caucuses four years ago and became John Kerry's running mate on the Democratic ticket.
Huckabee's victory does little to clarify the Republican field. He has not polled well in New Hampshire, and his biggest impact on that forthcoming contest may be that he has wounded Romney, who led in New Hampshire polls until recently. Senator McCain, who won the New Hampshire primary in 2000, remains popular there and has surged of late. McCain's almost-third-place finish in Iowa, a state where he barely campaigned, could add to his New Hampshire surge. If Romney loses his second contest in a row, after leading in both Iowa and New Hampshire for months, he could have a hard time gaining traction with voters in subsequent contests.