Iowans Reject Political Establishment

By Jennifer Parker

Jan 3, 2008 10:48pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: In delivering a harsh rejection of the political establishment, Iowa caucus-goers on Thursday reshaped both the Republican and Democratic presidential fields — and provided the starkest evidence yet that change will be the winning mantra of the 2008 campaigns.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., share little in terms of ideology or political grooming. But they both appeal to a similar — and increasingly potent — vein in American politics: a desire to move beyond the hyper-partisan politics that have marked the last two decades.

More than that, Obama and Huckabee became vessels for the hopes and aspirations of Iowans. They defeated candidates who weren’t supposed to lose: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., a former first lady and the beneficiary of the what was supposed to be the best Democratic machine in the country, and former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass., a camera-friendly and wealthy candidate who has spent the past year trying to win Iowa.

Record turnout in both races tells an important part of the story. Iowans were mobilized and engaged in this campaign, anxious to have their voices heard.

And when they spoke, they caucused for change. Even Clinton — who sought to incorporate that sentiment into her campaign message in the closing weeks — acknowledged as much in her concession speech Thursday night.

"Today we’re sending a clear message: that we’re going to have change," she said.

With New Hampshire’s primaries just five days away, losing candidates have little time to recover. Both Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., registered less at than 1 percent in Iowa — finishes that forced Dodd out of the race and will put pressure on Biden to follow his lead.

Beyond the winnowing of both fields, the change message will resonate on the campaign trail. Clinton chose to close her Iowa campaign with a subdued message of competence and confidence; she’ll need a more aggressive approach to turn things around.

Romney, who engaged in a highly personal foodfight with Huckabee in Iowa, is already dueling in New Hampshire with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Huckabee will face the challenge of building on his victory in states that aren’t as hospitable to a former Baptist preacher.

Iowa has clarified and condensed the field. The question now for all the candidates is how they use they reach new batches of voters — but the voices of Iowans will resonate far beyond the Hawkeye State.

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