Well, the results are in. My predictions were a little off, but no worse than most of the pros. What's fun at this point is to handicap the rest of the horse-race.
On the Democrat side, the big news is that Clinton was THIRD. Obama was first, and Edwards just nipped Hillary by a point. Momentum-wise, this is a huge blow for Hillary. Expect to see a lot of movement from the Clinton camp toward the other two. But I think there's also something really, really cool about the Obama win, too. Iowa is one of the whitest states in the union. My dad used to make business trips to Cedar Rapids back in the 70's, and I remember him commenting once how odd lily-white Iowa felt compared to more racially-mixed SC. Yet here we have the black candidate out front... and it's NO BIG DEAL. This is nothing like Jesse Jackson's campaigns of the 80's. Obama has basically transcended the race issue. Part of that is, of course, due to his own charisma and his unique heritage. But I think-hope-pray that another big part is that we, as a nation, have grown up a little. I'm fond of telling my students that my parents graduated from the last two segregated classes at their high school, and watching them look at me like I'm discussing the stone age. It is encouraging to think that more than a generation has passed since those dark days, and that many adults have basically no memory of Jim Crow. Obama's front-runner status is just further evidence that we're on the right track.
On the GOP side, the big news is that Huckabee beat Romney by a wider-than-expected margin. Then Fred Thompson came in basically in a dead heat with McCain for third. All the experts say that now McCain (who is beloved in New Hampshire) beats Romney next week, while Huck gets taken seriously and has a chance to win SC. To quote Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friend!" For McCain, the Obama win hurts in NH. Many of the undecided and independent voters he needs there will likely find the Democrat race with Obama more interesting, which makes the New Hampshire GOP contest both more mainstream Republican and also more secular than Iowa. Not to say that Romney is guaranteed anything there, but he'll survive. I think the biggest winner is Fred Thompson. Mainstream Republicans want a candidate who will hold together the old Reagan coalition. That coalition has three parts: security hawks, tax-cutters, and social/religious conservatives. Most of Romney's support has come from those who begrudgingly admit that he might have the best chance of doing that. Huckabee just can't--he's weak on two of the three (and is the most beatable in the general election, as well). If the shine comes off of Romney, then it's a Fred vs. McCain contest to pick up the support he loses, and McCain gets no love from the mainstream GOP. Also, don't count out Rudy. His strategy doesn't really kick off until Florida.
So, the verdict is this: Obama has staked himself to a really good position on the Democrat side, but the Republican race is, if anything, even more up in the air than it was last week. Sadly, these first two traditional state (Iowa and New Hampshire) don't look anything like the rest of the nation in real life, and their disproportionate impact on coverage and momentum is a bit overblown. But hey, it's fun to watch!