Iowans pick Huckabee and Obama, endorsing change
Caucus results shake up the race for the White House in both parties.
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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.Skip to next paragraph
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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.
Coming out of Iowa, another big question centers on national frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York. He has followed an unorthodox strategy for primary season: He mostly skipped Iowa, has campaigned sporadically in New Hampshire, and chose to focus on the big, delegate-rich states that vote later in primary season. To him, the first important contest is Florida, which holds its primary Jan. 29. Then he intends to clean up in the populous states that hold their primaries Feb. 5, or "super-duper Tuesday," including California, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, and Georgia. In all, almost two dozen states hold primaries that day.
In national polls taken before the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Giuliani remains at the top – barely – competing most closely with McCain and Huckabee. But his unusual strategy has been risky from the outset, analysts say. If different candidates win the Republican contests before Florida – New Hampshire, Michigan (Jan. 15), Nevada (Jan. 19), and South Carolina (Jan. 19) – then Giuliani's gambit could work.
But "he is not in control," says independent pollster John Zogby. "Meanwhile, one thing is clear: that Giuliani has lost Iowa and he'll lose New Hampshire, Michigan, and South Carolina. Things have to be really in a muddle for this thing to work."
At this stage, it would be foolish to rule out much of the Republican field as potential nominees, says GOP pollster Whit Ayres, who is not working for a presidential candidate. Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, has fought the idea that he could be a "one-state wonder" in winning Iowa, much like the Rev. Pat Robertson, who won Iowa in 1988 on the Republican side, only to fade.
"Nationally, religious conservatives or social conservatives are about one-third of the electorate, and economic conservatives are two-thirds," says Mr. Ayres. "If he ever gets himself in a one-on-one campaign with an economic conservative, he's going to have to expand his coalition very quickly."
But after winning Iowa, Ayres says, Huckabee is still very much in the hunt. Even though the Arkansan trails in New Hampshire, which has a small religious conservative population, he has been leading the polls in South Carolina, even before his Iowa victory.