03 January 2008

And the winner is.....

Barack Obama.

The numbers show that the top three Democrats finished within a few percentage points of each other in the Iowa caucuses Thursday night.

But the winner clearly was the senator from Illinois.

Obama, as has been well documented, came from a fair distance to pass Hillary Clinton, who has spent most of the past 12 months as the Democratic front runner in Iowa and nationally.

With Clinton leading by about 7 points in New Hampshire, according to the composite of polls put together by
Real Clear Politics, Obama needed a win in Iowa to prevent Clinton from putting two quick wins in her column and rolling to the nomination.

Indeed, not only did Obama's win prevent such a scenario, it also gives him the "winner" boost heading into the Jan. 8 vote in New Hampshire.

Never known to accept the "inevitable" candidate, New Hampshire voters just may see themselves with an opportunity to become Hillary slayers.

With Clinton leading most of the other polls in the other pre-Feb 5 states - South Carolina being the exception - it will be important for Obama to close the gap in New Hampshire and grab the baton as the clear early leader.

As I write this, CNBC is reporting Clinton and John Edwards are tied at 30%, with 90% of the caucus results in.

It's probable the two will finish within a percentage point or two of each other and no matter how you slice it, that is bad news for Clinton. A third-place finish for the once-invincible candidate would be a major repudiation of the New York senator.

For Edwards, going neck-and-neck with Clinton is impressive. But he has pretty much lived in Iowa for the past year and he really had to win the state to give him the kind of bounce he needs to go much beyond the early states.

Perhaps the biggest winners of all tonight though are all of those Democrats who live in all of those states - big and little - that will hold their primaries on Feb 5.

It's hard to imagine a scenario where they will not have two strong, still-viable candidates to vote for when they head into the voting booths.

The alarm clock goes off in my room in six hours, so we'll take a look at the GOP side of things tomorrow.

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