New Hampshire or Bust
It is often said that Iowa does not crown winners, but is effective at eliminating also-rans from the race. Exiting last evening were Democrats Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. Wounded were Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, even John Edwards. This was a state Edwards needed to win given the time and resources he devoted to the state on a shoestring budget. He heads for New Hampshire without the organization he developed here over the course of the past 5 years, and hamstrung by federal matching fund limits that are based on state populations. Clinton and Barack Obama both raised more than $100 million each over the course of 2007, and they will use this for the media campaign to follow as the race moves from retail to superstore politics. Edwards will stay in the race through South Carolina on Jan. 26, but I see little rationale for him competing beyond the Palmetto State short of a surprising victory.
Clinton was the presumptive frontrunner heading into the 2008 campaign, and this mantle was severely tarnished with a third place finish in Iowa. New Hampshire has been her firewall all along, and she must win the Granite State before the race heads to South Carolina where 50% of the Democratic electorate is African-American and ripe for Obama's crowning. The road will not be easy in New Hampshire, however, as independents dominate there, and Obama appeals to them as the authentic candidate of change. Hillary maintains a slight lead in the polls there, but expect the gap to close as Obama gets an Iowa boost.
Romney bet his fortune on the one-two punch of Iowa and New Hampshire. He lost round one to Mike Huckabee, and is vulnerable in the second contest to John McCain, not to mention the rising Huck. Short of a win on Tuesday, he returns to his home state of Michigan wounded and vulnerable to a second consecutive defeat to McCain who also won there in 2000. Mitt may be all but eliminated by the time the race heads to South Carolina, McCain's Waterloo in 2000, and Huckabee's first chance to enjoy the graces of his southern bretheren.
Giuliani's distant 6th place finish behind Ron Paul is certainly no surpirse given the fact that his campaign wrote off Iowa early on. He remains out of the top tier for New Hampshire and the primaries that follow, hoping for a mixed outcome that allows him to return to the fore with a late-state strategy starting in Florida on Jan. 29 and carrying onward through Tsunami Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Elsewhere in the race, Fred Thompson and John McCain are still battling for the third spot in the Iowa Republican field with 5% of the vote still mysteriously outstanding. Thompson has pledged to campaign onward in New Hampshire where he is polling outside the top five. Expect him to stay on through South Carolina where voters will weigh in on who best fits the mold of the southern base of the party.
Bill Richardson finished a distant 4th in Iowa and also plans to forge ahead in New Hampshire. I contend that this is now a two-horse race between Obama and Clinton, and Richardson may be lingering only for a VP nod or another cabinet post come 2009.
Carnage aside, time to explain the Obama and Huckabee victories in Iowa. Obama (picture from his Wednesday Cedar Rapids rally above) rode a record-high turnout, 234,000 strong, to a resounding 38% win over Edwards (30%) and Clinton (29%). He won 42 of the state's 99 counties, finishing second in 27 and third in 29. Edwards, by comparison, won 32 counties, finished second in 38, and third in 29. Clinton won 29, placed in 34, and "showed" in 36.