Iowa results - and where we go from here

Here are the near-final Iowa numbers from CNN as of 2:45 AM:

Obama - 38%
Edwards - 30%
Clinton - 29%
Richardson - 2%
Biden - 1%

Biden and Chris Dodd have dropped out.

Huckabee - 34%
Romney - 26%
Thompson - 13%
McCain - 13%
Paul - 10%
Giuliani - 3%
Hunter - 0%

Time for some analysis. By winning, Huckabee and Obama have momentum heading into next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. The Iowa Democratic caucus was seen as a very close three-way contest amongst Clinton, Edwards, and Obama. The Republican caucus was seen as a toss-up between Huckabee and Romney.

For Obama to win by eight points, therefore, should be considered particularly good news for him. Also good for him is that quite a few more independents - a voting bloc where he did particularly well in Iowa - are expected to vote in New Hampshire. Also, the fact that he won an overwhelmingly white state tells us that, well, his appeal crosses racial lines. If he can follow his win in Iowa with another one in New Hampshire, then he will have high expectations for South Carolina, whose black population is quite high.

Edwards really needed to do well here. Had he finished behind Hillary, I doubt his campaign would've ended, but his organization was said to be lagging behind Hillary and Obama in other states. In other words, unlike Obama and Hillary, most of his chips were down in Iowa, and he needed to do well there to get some mo'. Now he needs to do well in South Carolina, where he was born. That said, his second-place finish couldn't hurt too much; for him to beat Hillary (albeit by a small margin) gives him some momentum.

For Hillary - long considered the front-runner - to finish behind both Obama and Edwards has got to be disappointing. Having said that, she and Obama are the two with the most organized campaigns. She had been leading in several states. Whether she gets any momentum from Michigan - where she is one of four candidates in contention (along with 'Uncommitted') - remains to be seen, since Michigan has lost its delegates because of the fact that holding a primary on January 15 violated Party rules.

Richardson needs to do well somewhere. Preferably Nevada, with its high Latino population. With just 2% in Iowa, his campaign is on the ropes.

Romney has to do well in New Hampshire for two reasons. One, the state he governed, Massachusetts, borders New Hampshire. Two, Iowa has a higher percentage of evangelical and born-again Republican voters than New Hampshire; they are seen as the main reason Huckabee won. If Huckabee can use his Iowa momentum and overcome those obstacles to win New Hampshire, then he is the clear front0-runner heading into the Michigan primary a week later. (Michigan Republicans lost only half of their delegates for scheduling the primary on January 15.) If Romney loses New Hampshire, then he MUST hold off Huckabee here in Michigan, which his father governed during much of the 1960s.

For McCain, Thompson, and Giuliani, it's a fight to stay in the top tier. Ron Paul could yet pull off a surprise, since he seems to be sharing in the momentum. Why Duncan Hunter is still in the race beats me.

You might look at these returns and think, 'well, Obama did great.' I, an Obama supporter, am pleased that he won. But you see, what matters is how many delegates to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions are won by each candidate. Obama holds a narrow lead with 16 Democratic delegates, followed by Clinton at 15 while Edwards has 14. Huckabee leads the Republican delegate count with 17, followed by Romney at 12, McCain and Thompson at 3 apiece, and Paul with 2.

Even more interesting? Both parties require that a candidate gets a majority of the delegate votes at the convention. No candidate has a majority on either side.

Now, here's what's likely to happen. As the primary season continues, a clearer picture will emerge on both sides of the aisle. Seeing writing on the wall, more candidates will follow Biden and Dodd out of the race, meaning less competition for those who are still in it. In 2004 eight Democrats were in the running leading up to the caucuses. Dick Gephardt dropped out after Iowa; Joe Lieberman exited after New Hampshire; Wes Clark's swan song came following voting in Tennessee and Virginia; and Howard Dean's downfall was completed after the Wisconsin primary. After 'Super Tuesday' which was then in March and not February) John Edwards dropped out.

In all likelihood, as candidates drop out they will release their delegates. That is, they will allow the delegates pledged to vote for them to instead vote for someone else. In 2004, for example, many of the candidates received delegates, but only Kerry won a majority of the delegates. The other candidates released their delegates, allowing them to vote for Kerry at the convention and providing a near-unanimous vote for Kerry.

So there you have it. Obama and Huckabee are by no means assured of their nominations. But they are the front-runners and they do have that all-important momentum heading into the rest of the primary season.

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