The Iowa caucuses are now firmly established as the first tangible hurdle in the American presidential marathon, where public sentiments measured by polls and parsed by pundits actually are translated into votes for nominees.
The large number of candidates seeking the presidency in 2008 has resulted in even greater focus on Iowa. Primaries have now been bunched closely together early in the year, promising vital momentum from an early win. Iowa victors Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama will receive nonstop coverage in the few days until the New Hampshire primary.
As has been said of second marriages, Iowa caucusgoers opted for hope over experience.
A voter turnout of approximately the population of Jersey City bypassed the candidates of inevitability, big money, big names, known quantities and long experience to favor the two youngest and perhaps least experienced candidates in the race, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee, both frankly something of blank slates on the national scene.
On a calm Friday morning, when much of Iowa still was sleeping off its caucus-night hangover, "Dr. Vote" hit the streets on an urgent mission.
John Olsen knew he didn't have much time.
Besides his family minivan, among the few vehicles on the roads of downtown Des Moines were airport-bound taxicabs and rented moving vans.
Finally, the circus was leaving town.
Rising Democratic star Barack Obama continues to move up in polls for Tuesday's New Hampshire primary while one-time frontrunner Hillary Clinton is sliding downward and former second place holder John Edwards is sinking fast.
With two days to go Obama has erased Clinton's one-time formidable lead and pulled into a statistical dead heat.
"We are seeing clear movement in Obama's direction and away from Hillary Clinton," pollster John Zogby told Reuters. "There isn't much time for her to regroup here."
Fred Dalton Thompson may be an actor (of sorts) but he is not a good enough actor to convince anyone with a functioning brain he still has a shot at the Republican Presidential nomination.
After the one-term former Senator and sometimes actor turned candidate eeked out a third place finish just barely ahead of John McCain in Iowa, Thompson headed home to McLean, Virginia and not directly to New Hampshire like the other candidates.
In politics, they call it "Big Mo," the momentum that comes from a win and the opportunity to take that momentum into the next primary.
Both Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee left Iowa with "Big Mo" driving their campaigns. Polls taken in New Hampshire right after the Iowa caucuses show both candidates gaining and the campaign fortunes of New Hampshire front runners Hillary Clinton and John McCain sliding.
Republican Presidential candidate Fred Dalton Thompson, out of cash and lagging in the polls, will stay in the Presidential race through at least the New Hampshire primary even though some campaign aides say he should give up his faltering run for President.
Thompson returned home to McLean Thursday while other Presidential contenders headed direct to New Hampshire from Iowa. Aides say he will work the phone to try and raise much-needed campaign cash and try to also cash in on free media appearances.
J. Cofer Black is GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's chief weapon against Islamo-fascism. The former CIA official chairs Romney's Counterterrorism Policy Advisory Group. Also, the 9/11 Commission, the Congressional Joint Inquiry on 9/11 and the CIA's inspector general all condemn him for dropping the ball before Sept. 11, 2001. Black's spot in Romney's brain trust raises grave doubts about the former Massachusetts governor's national-security judgment.
There's only one solution to the wholly disproportionate emphasis on Iowa: Convince the voters of New Hampshire to punish the winners of those caucuses.
Don't vote for them, people, or write their names in for one of those oddball elected New England offices like selectman in charge of the town dump.
There have been attempts to spread all the attention Iowa and New Hampshire get to new venues, like, say, the other 48 states, but to no avail.
Illinois Senator Barack Obama and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses Thursday night, establishing themselves as the early frontrunners for the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominations and handing two earlier favorites crushing losses.
Mitt Romney, who outspent other Republicans 10-1, will finish a distant second while former Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton in third place, close behind former Senator John Edwards.