The votes have been counted and delegates have been doled out. As the ramifications of the Iowa caucuses become apparent, some candidates are well on their way to new heights, while others are falling to previously unimagined lows. Should be a fun ride!
Barack Obama - I think it’s fair to say that he passed most expectations of him in winning by 8 points. The only poll that had him remotely close to that margin was the widely criticized Des Moines Register. It’s got to feel good for them to end up right after taking so much ridicule.
As of now, Obama is down 7 in New Hampshire. While Clinton’s lead is sure to take a hit after her third-place Iowa finish, it remains to be seen whether or not Edwards will take those newly freed voters instead of Obama. If Obama does scrape by Clinton in New Hampshire, (and remember that 5 days is not long for Clinton to regain any momentum), it would be a strong lead toward Obama being the nominee, especially heading into South Carolina, a promising environment for the Illinois senator.
John Edwards - His second place finish in Iowa, not long after being an after-thought in the race, could garner a lot of free media in New Hampshire, possibly dulling Obama’s bump from his Iowa win. While it doesn’t look likely, if he somehow comes away from New Hampshire with a win, it will be a very interesting Super Tuesday, as it won’t be decided until then. He has the potential to do well in South Carolina, having been born there, and have been exposed to the media a lot next door, spilling over into South Carolina media.
Hillary Clinton - Her inevitability argument took a hit today, but not one that is impossible to recover from. For her, it’s unfortunate that she has spent so much time in Iowa to end up with a mere third place finish, had she taken a more-Giuliani tack early on, this would be written off as an expected loss. With only 5 short days to change the tone and momentum present in the political world, holding on to her 7% lead in New Hampshire could prove challenging. Her strategy for the coming week was apparent in her post-caucus remarks (hard to call it a concession speech—maybe they didn’t write a real one?), as she reminded everyone of foreign threats and the experience she says is necessary to handle them. If she does lose New Hampshire to Obama, I don’t see her coming back, no matter how resilient her family is.
Bill Richardson - No big surprises with his performance on caucus night. Just waiting until he’s through Nevada’s caucus on the 19th to drop out. Reports place him as an ally of Obama, turning his back on the Clinton family he once served as a member of 42’s cabinet.
Joe Biden & Chris Dodd - No surprises in their caucus performances either, and both will reportedly drop out soon. Biden has 3% in New Hampshire, and his endorsement could boost one of the front running campaigns.
Mike Huckabee - No one had a Huckabee win of a full 9 points as the expected result Thursday night. That being said, his astounding rise to the top won’t be enough to do him too much good in New Hampshire. He’s currently down to McCain (surprise!) by over 20 points.
While his win will definitely give him a bump, it won’t be an extraordinary one. He’ll catapult past Giuliani, but fall short of Romney, even after his dip in the polls after the disappointment in Iowa. A strong third, along with McCain holding off Romney, could be plenty to keep him in it through Michigan (where he’s only one point down already) and to a wide-open Nevada caucus.
Mitt Romney - By far the camp with the most disappointment tonight. Less than a month ago, Romney and his well-oiled machine were running high above the Republican throng below them in Iowa, looking like nothing could stop them. To go from that to a 9 point loss to a previously unknown small-state governor has probably left the entire campaign with whiplash. Even while Iowa was slipping away, McCain resurrected himself from the grave to take the lead in New Hampshire. If Romney doesn’t find a way to win New Hampshire (and he won’t), he’s going to have a tough time holding off Huckabee in the mid-January states, and then will run into Giuliani before he knows it.
Fred Thompson - No doubt the candidate people are least excited about. Rumors were abound that a fourth or lower finish in Iowa would mean the end of his campaign. Right now, he’s hanging on to third by a few hundred votes. He’s not polling in double digits in any January state besides Nevada, and even there it is only barely. The only scenario I can see that would lead to his nomination is an unprecedented split of states among four or more candidates that leads to a convention full of wheeling and dealing. He embodies the ideals of the Republican base, so in that case it could turn to him. Not likely though. If he does drop out, he’ll likely support John McCain.
John McCain - Before the Iowa caucuses, the consensus seemed to be that a third place finish would be better than expected, and would give him a lot of free media to propel him even further ahead of a slipping Romney in New Hampshire. Right now he’s in fourth by only a few hundred votes, so he could end up in third and still get that positive media. The only problem with that is if it takes too long to develop, it won’t come together in time to make any difference in New Hampshire, a mere 5 days away. After New Hampshire, he’s got an outside shot at Michigan, and maybe California if Giuliani slips as far as some think he will. Not looking too great for the man from Arizona, however.
Ron Paul - This is a pretty amazing finish for an outside candidate that has been receiving a minimum of free media. This will make a nice story about the increasing effect of the internet on politics, but won’t lead to much in the Republican process. If he does go independent, it will be interesting to see whether or not he will be able to turn out the youth vote in the general, and if he does who it will hurt. Hard to say before the nominees are chosen, as there are such divides on the Republican side.
Rudy Giuliani - While his strategy was obviously to forgo Iowa completely and focus on Florida, a loss this bad could hurt his chances more than he was counting on. When the dust settles, he will have lost to both John McCain (who also didn’t campaign much in Iowa) and Ron Paul (mostly regarded as a political joke). His fundraising won’t be great for the next month, as the media focuses on the other candidates and their successes. January 29th is a long way away, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a new leader in the national Republican polls by then, which will be another blow to his electability argument.
The most exciting fact on the Republican side is that there are still four (maybe five) viable candidates. Huckabee, Romney, McCain, Giuliani, and maybe Thompson all have a chance at the nomination still. New Hampshire could remove Thompson from the equation, but will only serve to muddy the waters between the other four.