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Huckabee Wins Iowa's Republican Caucuses
Speaking in New Hampshire, McCain offered an assessment of the Iowa campaign and an implicit warning to Romney, who has been running negative ads against him for weeks. "The lesson of this election in Iowa is that, one, you can't buy an election in Iowa, and, two, negative ads don't work," McCain said on CNN. "They don't work there, and they don't work here in New Hampshire."
Huckabee promised to compete in New Hampshire, but his weak standing there might force him to turn his attention to South Carolina's primary on Jan. 19, where a strong religious community could help him repeat his Iowa success. In dozens of interviews in New Hampshire this week, few voters indicated support for Huckabee.
His aides are wary of New Hampshire. "It's all no tax, no government there," said Bob Wickers, a top strategist. "It's not ideal." But they believe that the message of economic anxiety that he preaches will help in Michigan's primary on Jan. 15 and in states in the South, which have high poverty rates in addition to strong groups of social conservatives.
Rather than a battle over evangelical voters, the New Hampshire contest is likely to become a fight between Romney and McCain over economic conservatives and a race to win the many independents in the state.
In Iowa, social conservatives rallied around Huckabee after not finding another Republican candidate to champion their positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, guns and immigration. Romney and McCain had sought their support, but Romney was seen as coming too late to their thinking, and McCain was suspect because of his maverick streak. Giuliani, who did not compete in Iowa, was anathema because of his pro-choice position on abortion.
Other parts of the Republican establishment will not be cheering a Huckabee victory. He is viewed with suspicion by economic conservatives, who bristle at his anti-business message of economic populism and dislike his record of raising taxes in Arkansas. And his lack of foreign policy experience has been a concern for supporters of President Bush's national security policies.
But Huckabee, like the Democratic winner, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), casts himself as a fresh voice for change in Washington.
"If we win this vote, we will make political history like it's never been made in Iowa or America," Huckabee told a crowd of almost 2,000 people at one of his final rallies in Des Moines on Tuesday night.
Wickers said the victories of Obama and Huckabee are important because they communicate to voters that it is "okay" to vote for the candidates they find appealing, as opposed to those with more traditional experience, referring to Huckabee's career as a Baptist minister and Obama's relative lack of experience. Huckabee aides have long compared their campaign to Obama's, believing that both candidates offer uplifting, positive messages.
Huckabee's aides pointed to a series of ads, particularly one called "Believe" that dubbed him a "Christian leader," as not only promoting Huckabee but also making the case that Romney is not a politician of conviction. They noted entrance poll results showing that 33 percent of voters picked "candor" as a top factor in their vote, compared with 14 percent who chose experience and 8 percent who picked "best chance" of winning.
"You can't underestimate the importance of the 'Believe' ad," Wickers said.
Both campaigns credited a wave of turnout, especially in the state's northwestern areas, where evangelical Christians dominate. But Huckabee aides said their candidate turned out his supporters across the state.