Mike Huckabee is the decisive winner in Iowa tonight. He’s leading Romney 35 percent to 24 percent and, although only a small percentage of the vote is in, Romney has already conceded that Huckabee will win.
With any luck, tonight will be the high-water mark for Huckabee. Romney, meanwhile, faces the very real prospect of back-to-back second place finishes. That wouldn’t be bad in the abstract, but given the resources he’s thrown into Iowa and New Hampshire and the leads he has held there, it would raise doubts about his ability to “seal the deal” with voters. Of course, if Romney manages to defeat McCain in New Hampshire, his set-back in Iowa will quickly be forgotten.
On the Democratic side, Edwards, Obama, and Clinton are all at about 32 percent with roughly half the vote in. If that result holds, the race will be a wash regardless of which candidate squeaks out the victory (right now Obama is slightly ahead).
UPDATE: Now it’s Huckabee 31, Romney 23 with about half of the vote in. Fred Thompson is a distant third with 13 percent, just slightly ahead of John McCain. That’s not the result Thompson needed in order to gain traction. I hope he hangs in there because I think, in many ways, he’s a good candidate.
On the Democratic side, two-thirds of the vote is in now, and Obama is up to 35 percent, with Edwards and Clinton both at 31. If this holds, Obama can claim a genuine victory, but not a very meaningful one. He’ll have to win in New Hampshire to become a serious threat to Clinton, in my opinion.
MORE: Obama has extended his lead to seven percentage points over both Clinton and Edwards, so he’s had a big night too. But he still needs to win in New Hampshire.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: Iowa has given its seal of approval to (1) a one-term Senator who stands for “hope” and “change” and (2) a tacky, big spending governor who doesn’t know much about foreign policy but did stay at a Holiday Inn Express. The common demoninator here, other than a patent lack of qualifications for the presidency, is likeability.
Well done, (small fraction of) Iowa.
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