In Iowa, Obama Wins, Clinton Concedes

After months of campaigning in Iowa, the primary election season begins with a Democratic win by Barack Obama and a Republican win by Mike Huckabee.
By Chris Cillizza Staff Writer
Thursday, January 3, 2008; 10:12 PM

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has won the Iowa caucuses while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) seemed headed for a third-place finish, a stunning affirmation of his message of hope and a stinging rebuke of the long-time national frontrunner.

Clinton called Obama to congratulate him on his victory and to concede the race moments ago. With nearly 1,600 of the state's 1,781 precincts reporting their results, Obama led with 37 percent followed by former senator John Edwards with 30 percent of the vote and Clinton with 29 percent.

The Iowa Democratic party estimated that turnout would top 212,000, a projections based on 91.5 percent of the precincts currently reporting. In 2004, roughly 125,000 Democrats participated in the caucuses, and four years before that 59,000 Democrats turned out.

Obama's win sends a shockwave through the Democratic field as a candidate who was elected to the Senate from Illinois just two years ago has toppled the first family of Democratic politics. Clinton's apparent inability to beat out Edwards is likely to send warning signals throughout her campaign. The former First Lady now almost certainly needs a win in New Hampshire to reassert her status as the likely nominee.

In the runup to tonight's vote, the candidates did some light campaigning and quickly hunkered down to await the results of the caucuses.

Clinton gave a series of television interviews before dining at an Italian restaurant with her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea. Edwards stopped by his Cedar Rapids headquarters this afternoon to thank supporters and urge them to turn out tonight. Obama's campaign touted a caucus day endorsement from Chad Scott, a morning show radio host in north-central Iowa.

The flurry of activity served as the runup to the final act in a captivating political drama that has played out across the cities and plains of Iowa over the past year.

Despite the compression of the nominating calendar -- 31 states will vote on or before Feb. 5 -- the candidates have lavished countless days and tens of millions of dollars on their Iowa campaigns, believing that a win tonight would catapult them to the nomination.

The caucuses, which kicked off the presidential selection process since the mid-1970s, begam at 8 p.m. Eastern time as voters endured chilly temperatures -- 8 degrees at caucus time in Des Moines -- and missed a televised Bowl Championsip Series football game (Virginia Tech vs. Kansas) to gather at the 1,781 precinct caucuses around the state.

A win in Iowa ensured the victors a surge of momentum with just five days before the New Hampshire primary -- the shortest time between the two events in modern history.

An Obama win could well trigger a nationwide movement that could overwhelm the establishment support of Clinton. On the Republican side, Huckabee's victory validated his unorthodox campaign strategy and made him a real player heading into New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina.

Polling on the eve of the caucus vote reflected the uncertainty felt by the candidates, activists and journalists covering the contest. The Des Moines Register poll released on New Year's Eve showed Obama leading the Democratic field and Huckabee atop the Republican race. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey that came out the following day, however, showed Clinton and Romney ahead.

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