Iowa Decides on Huckabee and Obama: What it Means

So, Iowans have decided, Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama are who they want to be the next president of the United States. But, what does this all mean? Has anything actually been decided? The members of Civic Alert weigh in after the jump.

Curt:
Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee both have won Iowa by margins of 8% and 9% respectively. However, what does this mean? For the Democrats, it could mean the election. When people around the nation open up their papers tomorrow morning and see that Hillary Clinton placed third, the momentum that Obama will gain from this could very well easily carry him to victory in New Hampshire, which is only five days away and is neck and neck. If Obama can win New Hampshire, it may be all downhill from there as he should win another early state, South Carolina, as it has a large African-American population. Obama’s victory speech put it nicely:

They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided; too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose.

But on this January night – at this defining moment in history – you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do; what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days; what America can do in this New Year. In schools and churches; small towns and big cities; you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.

Barack’s message of change seemed to resonate with Iowans and I don’t see why this won’t be true for voters in New Hamshire as well. Critics were worried that Obama would not be able to get whites to vote for him, but they were silenced last night as Barack won by 8% in a state that is 94% white. Edwards and Hillary need to stop Obama in New Hampshire in order to have a chance for a comeback; if Obama can roll again there, it is all but over.

For the Republicans, things are a bit hazier. Mike Huckabee dominated in Iowa by 9%, whereas I had expected Romney to squeak by with a victory. Romney’s campaign machine was a force to be reckoned with, with a highly detailed web of supporters blanketing the state as opposed to Huckabee’s less than impressive effort. However, none of that matters now as Huckabee handed it to Romney. Rudy Giuliani spent the night in Florida, soaking up the rays and continuing his strategy of campaigning everywhere but the early states, we will see how this haphazard campaign strategy pans out soon enough. Giuliani garnered a meager 4% in Iowa, six points behind Ron Paul. Looking at New Hampshire, Huckabee doesn’t have much of a presence there and John McCain, who only received 13% in Iowa for 4th place behind Fred Thompson, is neck and neck with Romney. A win for either of them could make the nation stop googling “Huckabee.” However, it would cause more confusion amongst Republicans if Huckabee doesn’t have a strong showing.

So what was decided last night? Not much it seems. However, it is safe to say that another victory by Obama in New Hampshire could possibly seal the deal whereas Huckabee needs to have another strong showing to prove he is here to stay.

Amy:
I’m positively giddy right now. There’s no denying it. But then perspective kicks in and I remember that there are 49 other states in this game. And two Democrats that are in no way out of the running. So what now? Such a big deal is made out of Iowa, but now that the results are in, the candidates are rushing to the next state.

New Hampshire is made up of 40 percent Independents. Obama attracted over 40 percent of Iowa Independents. This is absolutely key. It’s all about convincing on Tuesday—convincing the voters who don’t necessarily align with a party to place stock in red or blue candidates. And those that can blur these party lines are likely to succeed. Obama’s triumph among women and voters in a largely white state will also be a driving force in continuing his victories. Any place where he can take away women’s votes from Hillary and southern Black votes from Edwards will prove vital.

Huckabee had it all right in Iowa. Evangelicals made up 60 percent of Republican caucus-goers in the state, giving him the strength to overcome Romney. It’s all about values and ideology for many conservative voters, and Huckabee has this covered. He proved that money isn’t everything. Though Romney dropped dough in the state, he still fell to the more grassroots Huckabee. Another loss in New Hampshire, either to Huckabee or the recently surging McCain, will be a fatal blow to the Romney campaign. I think we’ll just see more negativity from Romney as he focuses his New Hampshire attacks on McCain. If nothing else, the evangelical voting population in South Carolina will weaken Romney’s decreasingly viable status.

There’s still a long way to go. All we know is what white, rural Midwesterners think about the candidates. But who knows, maybe their perspective will be more representative of the rest of the country than we think. In any case, I’m sticking with my hope. “We are one nation, we are one people, and our time for change has come.”

Scott:
Well, I feel like both Curt and Amy are on the right track about what this means for the winners and losers of tonight’s caucus. I do feel that these results are much more influential for the Democrats than they are for the Republicans, but it’s a long shot away from over for both parties.

Like Curt mentioned, the big story is not only how much momentum Obama will have coming out from such a big win and inspiring speech, but also how much Hillary will lose from placing 3rd. People won’t care about how close it was between her and Edwards, the New Hampshire paper tomorrow morning will read that she placed third, and you can bet that’ll hurt her among other Democrats in the state. I do wish that Edwards had quit after not winning Iowa. Removing one of the two major “change” candidates from the race would have benefited Obama, and I really don’t expect Edwards to do any better in New Hampshire, where he has spent considerably less time. With 47% of independents voting for Obama in Iowa, Amy is absolutely right that he stands to use that to a huge advantage next Tuesday in the heavily independent New Hampshire. Also notable is that by showing he can win the votes from white people in the overwhelmingly white state of Iowa, Obama has proven to all races that a black man can win. Not only does this bode well for the even more overwhelmingly white state of New Hampshire, but also for winning the black vote when he heads down to South Carolina after that. Bottom line is that if Obama can ride this huge positive wave of attention he’ll be getting over the next five days and quite realistically win New Hampshire, he will emerge as the Democratic Party’s clear front-runner, which will be a very nice position to be in heading into February 5th.

Huckabee, however, still has his work cut out for him. Despite his strong victory tonight and (almost) equally impressive speech, New Hampshire just doesn’t have the same number of Evangelical Christians, which were Huckabee’s core constituency in Iowa. If I were Huckabee, I’d give up on New Hampshire and go straight for South Carolina. By spending the next week playing to their Evangelical population, he could stand to rebound from a New Hampshire loss with a strong South Carolina victory. However, as things stand, I don’t expect anything better than a third place finish for Huckabee in New Hampshire. With any luck, McCain’s strong showing in Iowa, despite not having campaigned extensively in the state (he was in New Hampshire on the night of the caucus!), will be enough momentum to push him to a first place finish over Romney in New Hampshire, a state that as historically favored McCain. While I don’t believe a second place finish in New Hampshire would be a “fatal blow” to man with Romney’s mad bank, it definitely would not be good and could potentially cement McCain into a national lead. Either way, the Republican nomination has too many x-factors right now to safely predict who’s going to be leading come February 5th. Ultimately, this lack of a strong front-runner is only hurting the Republican Party.

So, yes, I do feel Iowa is significant. But this is a long way from over and next Tuesday is going to be another intense night in New Hampshire. With any luck, we’ll see something similar to tonight happen again.

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