Illinois Senator Barack Obama's victory Thursday in the critical Democratic Iowa caucuses indicates voters saw him as a candidate of change, according to the polls. Barack Obama and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a Republican, have been declared the winners in Iowa, the first test in the race for the White House. The Presidential hopefuls campaigned down to the wire in Iowa, as candidates were determined to reach as many people as possible.
After a tough three-way battle against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Senator John Edwards, Obama won a convincing victory. Obama received 38 per cent of the vote among Democrats. Edwards received just under 30 percent and Clinton took just over 29 percent. Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd abandoned their presidential bids following their respective dismal showings among Democratic Party voters.
"They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high," Obama told his crowd of supporters Thursday night. "They said this country was too dividing, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, on this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do."
The wide-open races in both parties triggered a large turnout far exceeding previous contests or projections. There was an estimated turnout of 220,588 for Democrats, compared to 124,000 who participated in 2004. Most projections had estimated the turnout would be about 150,000. Results shed light on the current mindset of the American voter, demonstrating that they didn't want to look back and are ready for a change.
With support previously in single digits, Huckabee came from behind in recent weeks with support from evangelical Christians in a tight race with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. He won 34 per cent, compared to 25 per cent for Romney. Former Senator Fred Thompson and Senator John McCain battled for third place.
"A new day is needed in American politics, just like a new day is needed in American government," Huckabee told his supporters. "It starts here but it doesn't end here. It goes all the way through the other states and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor once considered the front-runner, but who has seen his support wane, trailed in sixth place, having bypassed Iowa to concentrate his resources on big states like Florida.
Clinton's campaign focused on her experience and time in the White House during her husband's two-term presidency. When Obama began to climb in the polls, Clinton's campaign attempted to portray Obama as someone who lacked experience. Obama campaigned on a theme of change and bipartisan cooperation, rebuffing Clinton's charges. He also questioned whether being the wife of a former president would qualify her for the job. The finish was a blow to Clinton and, despite her defeat, she vowed to continue the fight.
"We have always planned to run a national campaign," the former first lady told supporters at a noisy rally attended by her husband and their daughter, Chelsea. "I am so ready for the rest of this campaign, and I am so ready to lead."
John Edwards, portraying himself as the defender of the little guy, had cultivated the union and rural vote, and campaigned relentlessly in Iowa hoping to build up enough momentum going into the primaries to follow.
Despite Huckabee's victory, it is not known whether he can translate this success into wins in other states where he faces opponents with bigger campaign funds. Romney remarked that he had trailed Huckabee by more than 20 points a few weeks ago. "I've been pleased that I've been able to make up ground and I intend to keep making up ground, not just here but across the country," he said.
Some see Romney as a flip flopper because he changed his position on abortion, having once supported abortion rights. His Mormon faith had also become an issue during the campaign, causing concern among some Christian conservatives who view it as a cult.
Meanwhile, in preparation for the race in New Hampshire, John McCain was asked about his shocking "hundred years" comment referring to his statement that it would be “fine” if US troops stayed in Iraq for a “hundred years.” He reaffirmed and expanded the remark, declaring that US troops could be in Iraq for "a thousand years" or "a million years," as far as he was concerned.
The key matter, he explained, was whether they were being killed or not: "It's not American presence; it's American casualties. US troops are stationed in South Korea, Japan, Europe, Bosnia and elsewhere as part of a generally accepted policy of America's multilateralism. There's nothing wrong with Iraq being part of that policy, providing the government in Baghdad does not object.”
The Iowa caucus vote is considered the official kickoff to the November 2008 presidential election. Voters from both parties choose delegates to attend party conventions later this year.
Clinton and Obama are supposedly in a statistical dead heat in New Hampshire according to the latest CNN/WMUR poll. However, the winners in Iowa have received a boost for the upcoming New Hampshire primary, where independents are allowed to vote in either primary. The New Hampshire primary will be held on Tuesday, January 8. Super Tuesday primaries on February 5, when more than 20 states will be voting on candidates, will give a greater indication of who the nominees will be on the two major party tickets.