Today's Papers

Fired Up

Everybody leads with the Iowa caucuses, where Sen. Barack Obama and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won decisive victories. It’s a story of big winners and big losers as everyone agrees that the results represent serious setbacks for both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney. Sen. John Edwards had long made a big point of winning Iowa, and he managed to get second place by receiving 0.3 percent more than the former first lady. Here are the (pretty much final) numbers: Obama 38 percent, Edwards 30 percent, Clinton 29 percent; Huckabee 34 percent, Romney 25 percent, and Fred Thompson virtually tied with Sen. John McCain at 13 percent, though Thompson did get a few more votes. The Democratic field got a bit smaller last night as Sen. Joseph Biden and Sen. Christopher Dodd dropped out of the race after barely registering in the night’s results.

There was record turnout on both sides, but the numbers for the Democrats are particularly startling as they had 239,000 people participating in the caucuses, compared with 124,000 four years ago. The big theme of the night is how the results illustrate that voters want change and are not afraid to turn away from the establishment candidates. As USA Todayhandily summarizes, Obama and Huckabee “triumphed over contenders with stronger establishment backing and more extensive institutional support.” But there’s no rest for the weary, and the candidates had little time to analyze the results before boarding planes to New Hampshire to campaign before Tuesday’s primary, which has taken on a new level of importance, particularly for  both Clinton and Romney.

The massive turnout by Democrats “served as another warning to Republicans about the problems they face this November in swing states” like Iowa, says the New York Times. According to polls, half of the Democrats were looking for change, and 57 percent said they were attending a caucus for the first time, which were two key factors in propelling Obama to victory. On the Republican side, Huckabee was definitely helped by the fact that 60 percent of caucus-goers described themselves as evangelicals.

In a Page One analysis, the Washington Postsays that with his overwhelming victory, “Obama shook conventional wisdom to its political core” and the Los Angeles Timesechoes the same sentiments by noting that he “overturned some of the fundamental assumptions of modern-day American politics.” Not only did he show that an African-American candidate can win in an overwhelmingly white state, but also that a man could get significant support from women even while running against a strong female politician. Perhaps most importantly though, he’s widely credited for getting supporters to participate in a caucus that was long seen as dominated by veteran political activists. The LAT points out the results “are especially damaging” for Edwards because it will now be difficult for him to portray the race as anything but a contest between Clinton and Obama.

Clinton’s advisers haven’t said whether there will be a change in strategy for New Hampshire, but the NYT says a “shift seems likely” because her “multilayered, sometimes contradictory message” that touted both her experience and capacity for change “fell flat in this first contest.” At the same time, it’s important to remember, as the WP points out, the Clinton campaign had always recognized “Iowa was a risk” and would be a tough fight. But it’s difficult to look past the feeling that her two main arguments of experience and electability don’t appear to be resonating with voters as much as Clinton had expected. And, at the very least, her strategy to seem like the inevitable Democratic nominee has been shattered.

On the Republican side, things look a bit different. Huckabee’s overwhelming victory is a “devastating blow” (WP) to Romney, mainly because he made no secret that winning the early states was a central part of his strategy. The Wall Street Journal points out Huckabee also broke with conventional wisdom by going with a populist message that “represents a challenge to his historically pro-business party.” But, more than anything, Huckabee’s victory makes it clear that, as the LAT points out, the Republican “nomination remains up for grabs among at least four candidates and may not be resolved” until Tsunami Tuesday next month. According to polls, Huckabee doesn’t really have a chance in New Hampshire (he’s currently battling for a distant third place), which is why everyone points out that the person who might have gained the most from his victory yesterday is McCain. At the same time though, Obama’s victory could end up hurting McCain since they’re both courting some of the same independent voters in New Hampshire.

The Post notes that New Hampshire residents “are already being inundated with negative messages” from campaigns and outside groups. These outside groups are likely to take on a more significant role in the campaigns as the primary season heats up and candidates won’t be able to make the kind of personal pleas that were the rule in Iowa. Besides the style of campaigning, also expect a change in the focus of the contest as no one tires of pointing out that New Hampshire is a very different place and the talk will “shift from social and religious issues to taxes and national security,” says the NYT.

The NYT’s David Brooks writes that while he’s lived through nights “that brought a political earthquake,” he’s never been through an event that “brought two” and says both Obama and Huckabee are changing their parties. He describes Obama’s victory as a “huge moment” that brought “political substance” to a “movement that seemed ethereal and idealistic.” Although Huckabee has displayed “serious flaws,” he managed to shift the tone of his party by successfully tapping “into realities that other Republicans have been slow to recognize.”

In other news, the NYT fronts word that the Bush administration is preventing states from expanding eligibility for Medicaid. The administration had never said it would apply the limits of eligibility it imposed on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to Medicaid, but several states are finding out that the administration is also against expanding Medicaid out of fear that families will rely on it instead of buying private insurance.

The LAT fronts, and the WP goes inside with, a look at how Nawaz Sharif is trying to change his image to become the main face of the opposition in Pakistan. Although he had recently found himself in the shadow of Benazir Bhutto, many now see him as the only experienced politician that could take on President Pervez Musharraf, even if they are wary because of his not-so-rosy past. Officials in Washington have never been too fond of him because of perceived ties to militants, but U.S. embassy officials are in contact with Sharif and his party, which he sees as a sign of his rising popularity.

The NYT fronts the amazing story of a window washer who fell 47 stories into a Manhattan alleyway and somehow survived. Doctors, who described his recovery as “miraculous” and “unprecedented,” said he would likely be able to walk again. “Above 10 stories, most of the time we never see the patients because they usually go to the morgue,” a doctor said.