A slightly leaner though perhaps no more settled presidential field arrives in New Hampshire on Friday, sorting out a wild finish to the Iowa caucuses with only four days remaining before the next contest promises to scramble the race again.
Of the various winners in Iowa -- turnout, the youth vote, the Des Moines Register's pollsters, rental car companies -- one looms large over both the Democratic and Republican fields: change.
It's that theme that unites the storylines that left Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark. -- Iowa's unlikely winning duo. Obama and Huckabee share little beyond their ability to speak to the hopes and aspirations of voters -- and political dreaming can be contagious.
Iowans' broad rejection of the political establishment -- and its two candidates of the moment, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass. -- could resonate throughout the coming contests.
Suddenly the inevitable candidate -- with all that money, all those endorsements, and the team that's cast her as "winning" the presidential race since before it started -- is looking extremely vulnerable. Thursday's third-place finish will force Clinton aides to earn their pay in the mad dash to New Hampshire, with little time to adjust perceptions and only so much spin to melt this frosting.
The story now: what tricks does Camp Clinton have to slow the O-mentum? Obama may be a hard guy to stop with a hope-filled wind at his back.
ABC News' Kate Snow reports from the Clinton press charter that senior campaign advisors suggested it's time to make some "contrasts" with her rivals.
"That's code for No More Mrs. Nice Guy," Snow writes.
"Will there be negative television ads on the airwaves in New Hampshire later today? It's highly possible. Will she go after Senators Obama and Edwards forcefully in tomorrow's debate, to be televised on ABC? It's likely."
Clinton strategist Mark Penn tells Time's Karen Tumulty: "We've got to start holding him to the standard people hold her to." Another adviser tells Tumulty: "You're going to see some very sharp media now."
Waving goodbye and looking ahead to Tuesday, David Yepsen warns of the risk of going negative in the short five days before the New Hampshire primary – it may sink Clinton deeper if she looks desperate.
As Clinton seeks a new message, look for her to be "gracious, embracing change, but raising the question of who is best prepared to bring about change," Politico's Mike Allen and Ben Smith report. They get a-hold of some Clinton surrogate talking points: "We're going to continue to make the case that in these serious times, when America faces big challenges, it will take a leader with Hillary's strength and experience to deliver real change."
"This was the moment when we tore down barriers that have divided us for too long," Obama said in declaring victory.
Nothing was torn down with the same violence that destroyed the shield of inevitability that Clinton aides had spent the better part of a year constructing. "The two winners burst the aura of strength and confidence that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Romney had tried to cultivate for months, and left both parties suddenly without a clear path to their nominating conventions, let alone November," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times.
Two candidates who sought to portray themselves as the most electable weren't at all when actual real people had their say.
"Mrs. Clinton's lackluster finish raises anew questions about her electability, and whether independent voters -- twice as many of whom backed Mr. Obama over her -- will ever come around to Mrs. Clinton," Healy writes. "And Mr. Romney, who outspent Mr. Huckabee 6 to 1 in television advertising in Iowa, now faces a far more crowded field of rivals in the New Hampshire primary who are eager to tear into his wounded candidacy."
The Washington Post trio of Dan Balz, Anne Kornblut and Shailagh Murray note that Obama "asked Iowa for more" even after supporters began their celebrations. "They were handed slips of paper reading 'great work in Iowa,' and announcing that three Obama offices in the state will remain open through Feb. 5, for volunteers to work phone banks aimed at primaries in other states."
The Des Moines Register poll that was dissected at many New Year's Eve gatherings on Monday may not as been as wrong as some Democratic campaigns and strategists insisted.
"Long viewed as an insular process dominated by longtime political activists, Thursday's first-in-the-nation voting event of the 2008 campaign turned out to be a forum for unaffiliated voters and first-time participants to say they were looking for something new and different," writes Peter Wellsten in the Los Angeles Times.
It's easy to over-read Iowa, but it's not easy to miss the broad message when voters send home two candidates with a combined 60 years in the Senate, and place two anti-establishment candidates -- Obama and former senator John Edwards, D-N.C. -- over the Clinton machine.
"At least on this cold night, there was a powerful suggestion that voters were intrigued by a different kind of politics, particularly independents who increasingly say they are weary of the old partisan fights," Michael Tackett writes in the Chicago Tribune.
Edwards aides cast the evening as a rejection of Clinton -- and they're right. But after staking his campaign to Iowa, Edwards' tall order is to turn those sentiments into something he can power a candidacy with, since the night was also an embrace of Obama.
Yes, Edwards beat Clinton, but no, he didn't win. "When you deliver a message of change during so-called change election and still lose, the news isn't good: Apparently Iowans didn't trust the messenger," AP's Ron Fournier writes.
Wondering about enthusiasm? On this night, at least, energy equaled voters. "About 239,000 Iowans participated in the Democratic caucuses, an increase of 93 percent from the record turnout by Democrats in the 2004 caucuses," Thomas Beaumont reports in the Des Moines Register.
So the battle is joined anew in New Hampshire. "Clinton has little choice but to try to create a new dynamic," Time's Karen Tumulty writes. "Behind the scenes, her strategists have already begun to figure out how much heat to put on the sudden frontrunner, whose win was far more decisive than just about anyone had expected."
The Union Leader's John DiStaso games out the Granite State primary: it's must-win for Clinton, Romney and McCain. Edwards can place a strong third and still be in good shape to continue and Obama can get away with a strong second place.
"But an Obama win would likely send him to the nomination."
Among the very many members of Camp Clinton to be eating his words is former President Bill Clinton, who is hoping his own New Hampshire history will help crown a new "comeback kid." (He'll be in the Granite State non-stop through Tuesday's primary -- and this won't be a nostalgia tour.)
"They rolled the dice," Jeff Zeleny writes in The New York Times, borrowing a phrase the former president used last month to describe a vote for Obama. "Iowa . . . supported his improbable candidacy in defiance of those who warned he was too inexperienced in world affairs. Instead, what seemed to drive them was the idea that Mr. Obama would present a new face for America in the world, with a coalition of Democrats and independents dispelling skepticism and flooding caucuses in all corners of the state to support a man who came to Washington only three years ago."
Yet for all the superlatives, nothing was settled on Thursday night. Winning has a way of changing perceptions in a hurry, as Obama and Huckabee now appreciate. If anything, the Republican field is another chaotic spell: Huckabee's New Hampshire ceiling could be third place, as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., seeks to knock out Romney by throwing a flood of cold water on his kindling.
ABC News' Jake Tapper writes about how Huckabee learned of his win in the Iowa caucuses – while flying from Waterloo back to Des Moines.
"Everything was basically happening while we were in the air from Waterloo back to Des Moines so I'm the last guy in the whole of America to know that we had won the caucus," Huckabee told reporters early this morning.
Huckabee declared that his victory "started a prairie fire of new hope and zeal," but even Chuck Norris can't force an under-funded message to spread in New Hampshire.
A prairie fire may work in the Midwest but the Romney campaign is hoping that a "kindling strategy" is better (more quaint) for New England.
The loss is a "devastating blow" to that strategy conceived in Boston – "to spark a fire in the early-voting states by outspending and out-organizing his rivals," Michael Shear and Perry Bacon write in the Washington Post. Romney "accepted the 'silver' and congratulated his rival for earning the 'gold'" (but did not call him to express that congratulations because it's a "long process," as he said on CNN this morning.
Iowa clarified precisely nothing on the GOP side. "Republicans head into New Hampshire much as they went into Iowa: Puzzling over an unsettled field of candidates, each of whom is struggling for broad acceptance within the party," Jill Lawrence writes for USA Today.
Let's see how well Mitt Romney can pirouette. After his mano y mano sparring with Huckabee in Iowa, he now has to turn to John McCain who has been patiently waiting in the Granite State, which he has had largely to himself over the last few days.
Romney enjoyed wide leads in polls in New Hampshire but that has all changed as McCain has McSurged in recent weeks and polls show a tighter race there. Romney flew into New Hampshire without a strong tail wind from a victory in Iowa and now has to shift his message to fight back McCain.
Alec MacGillis looks at how different the Republican race is in New Hampshire and the turn Romney needs to make: "Romney generally has emphasized his social-conservative planks in Iowa while playing up his managerial experience in New Hampshire."
This murky Republican field is largely uncharted territory for the GOP and that is quite unsettling for the party. "In recent years, the party has most often entered an election year with a leading candidate who, while challenged by upstarts, most often went on to win," writes Mark Z. Barabak in the Los Angeles Times.
Don't forget about all those Huckabee haters. "The establishment is clearly arrayed against Huckabee, whose past support of tax increases and criticism of Bush's foreign policy have made him anathema to economic- and defense-oriented conservatives," Peter Canellos writes in The Boston Globe.
Former senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., grabbed third, meaning he lives to fight another day (whether he really wants to or not).
Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., can at least brag about beating Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. (and at least he stayed warm while getting his clock cleaned in Iowa).
While his Republican rivals were duking it out in blustery Iowa, Giuliani held an event in New Hampshire. But instead of sticking around the state to greet the tired candidates coming in from Iowa, he flew to Florida for an event and a fundraiser.
And just to keep things interesting, it's New Hampshire that could feel the full Ron Paul effect. "New Hampshire, with its 'live free or die' motto, is the early state where Mr. Paul's message and movement are likely to have their biggest resonance," Mary Jacoby writes in The Wall Street Journal. "The advocate of small government, who opposes the Iraq war and has raised an impressive $20 million in the final three months of last year, remains a wild card on the Republican side."
About the best thing that happened to Romney Thursday night was that Clinton lost the Democratic caucuses, ensuring that any Republican news is a secondary storyline. He won the silver -- but that's not good enough for a candidate with enough silver spoons to dump maybe $10 million into Iowa. His $7 million in ad spending came out to $270 a vote, per ABC's John Berman, Matt Stuart, and Ursula Fahy.
He faces not only McCain but an angry New Hampshire press (what will daily Romney-stinks editorials in the Union Leader mean?). For McCain, fourth place was a victory -- simply because Romney finished second. New Hampshire is his must-win, and he's confident, per ABC's Ron Claiborne. "Expect? We will win," McCain said.
The Union Leader's DiStaso sees New Hampshire as a must-win for John McCain. "McCain has made such an investment in New Hampshire and has been the beneficiary of late momentum generated by a series of newspaper endorsements that now, he cannot afford to lose," he writes.
McCain certainly agrees. In an interview with the Union Leader's Dan Tuohy last night, the winner of the 2000 New Hampshire primary said that Huckabee's success is a good sign for his campaign.
"He (Huckabee) has proven that you can't buy elections," McCain said. "He has shown negative ads don't work. I don't think it works in New Hampshire. It certainly didn't work in Iowa."
Farewell Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. After failing to garner a percentage point in the caucuses, the two veteran senators ended their presidential bid.
Bill Richardson came in fourth with two percent of the vote but for now is staying in. After all of the talk about Fred Thompson dropping out (and endorsing McCain before the New Hampshire primary), his virtual tie for third-place with McCain carries him on to Tuesday's primary.
Finally reporters and pundits have some real results to chew on and with that means adjusted predictions, conventional wisdom and analysis and four whole days before they can be proven right or wrong.
The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg looks at the impact of the punditry: "It is the sort of analysis that can fill the candidates' coffers and provide millions of dollars worth of free media attention — or, just as easily, plug their money spigot and give them the sort of attention they would be willing to spend millions to stop. It is also the kind of analysis that can, and often has, ultimately proved to be incorrect by the next round of voting."
"I guess we won." – Mike Huckabee, on his campaign charter, learning he won the Iowa caucuses.
"They are all porcelain." -- Ed Rollins, to Lou Dobbs, as quoted by an eavesdropping Amanda Carpenter of Townhall.com, expanding on his desire to knock Romney's teeth out.
"I see white people, and black people, and brown people, yellow folks getting up and shouting for him - I never thought that would happen in my lifetime. I'm 71 and I've seen some things, and this is just...." – Barbara Elam, a black retiree from Cedar Rapids.
A reminder: On Saturday, back-to-back presidential debates -- sponsored by ABC News, Facebook and WMUR-TV -- will be held at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Republicans will debate from 7-8:30 pm ET and Democrats will follow from approximately 8:45-10:15 pm ET. The two 90-minute debates, moderated by ABC's Charlie Gibson with questions from WMUR anchor and political director Scott Spradling, will air in primetime on the ABC Television Network.
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