Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa Caucuses...

I realize I'm just a jammie-wearing blogger, and a poor one at that, and that I'm capable of mis-stating something, and further, that I don't have a blizzard of polls and projections to digest and put out an article on a deadline, but even I know that Ron Paul is a Republican from Texas, not California. [Then again, I'm not, you know, getting paid to write this stuff.]

From ABC News, quoted in it's entirety, in case they get it corrected ever...

Huckabee Takes Iowa; Romney in 2nd
Former Arkansas Governor Rides Momentum Surge to Early Victory

Jan. 3, 2008—

ABC News projects that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will win the Iowa Caucuses, beating out former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in a two-man race for the Republican party's top spot in Iowa.

The victory follows a surging December for Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor who has described his campaign as "shoestring" and said that Romney, a business executive before becoming governor, has outspent his campaign "20-1."

Third place remains too close to call with former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., holding a slight lead, based on ABC News projections, over U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Calif.

ABC News also projects that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama will win the Iowa Democratic Caucuses. At this point ABC News does not have enough information yet to project who will come in second or third, but early results indicate it will be Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., in some order.

Republicans had expected an estimated 90,000 Iowans  about the population of Billings, Mont.  to turn out to begin the process of steering the party toward a candidate. Many of those Iowa Republicans are more conservative by party standards.

The GOP front-runners had been fairly clear going into tonight with  especially in recent days  an ugly slug fest with critical implications for each candidate's campaign.

Huckabee has leaned on his reputation as an affable every guy during his recent surge. Just last night, he played the bass and traded jokes in Los Angeles last night as a guest on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno"  a high-profile appearance on the comic's first night back on the air without his striking writers.

But Huckabee was back in Iowa first thing Thursday morning, telling a crowd of supportive Iowans that the Republican race is "about believing in a cause." As the returns began to trickle in, a spontaneous prayer circle broke out at the Des Moines Embassy Suites where Huckabee supporters were congregating. The group prayed for Huckabee's victory as well as some of his more conservative views  including an end to abortion and homosexuality.

Huckabee reportedly was in the air between caucusing locations when his projected win was announced at his campaign's Iowa gathering spot.

On the other side of the matchup in Iowa is former Massachusetts governor and business executive Mitt Romney, a Mormon who has outspended any opponent in the Republican field in his quest for votes. Because of the time and money he's dumped into this first measurement of the American electorate, the expectations for a victory are high, and anything less, even a close second finish, could be seen as a defeat.

As the first reports of Huckabee inching off to an early lead campaign in, Romney aides said they always knew the race would be close, with the direction of the evangelical base a major question for the Mormon candidate. The candidate, meanwhile, said at a caucusing precint in West Des Moines, that tonight was only "the first inning in a 50-inning ball game."

"So, you know, you want to get on base the first inning," Romney said, "but we're planning on doing well."

Huckabee and Romney and their staffs have traded some sharp jabs in the days leading up to tonight, jabbing and counter-jabbing one another daily. Earlier this week, in one of the more unusual bits of political theater, Huckabee pulled a TV ad from the airwaves that he said was too negative regarding his chief Iowa opponent, but he first held a press conference to show the ad to the media. And this morning, in another example of the political fisticuffs, Romney hit back at a comment in The Washington Post by Huckabee campaign head Ed Rollins, who'd said he wanted to knock out Romney's teeth.

Romney made light of his own carefully coifed look, telling Rollins "just don't touch the hair."

Rollins told ABC News shortly after the caucus process began that "his gut" told him that Huckabee would end the night with a 5-point victory.

With just hours to the caucusing, the Huckabee campaign called for an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service into a series of anonymous letters that have been sent to Iowa pastors warning them to stay out of the electoral process. Although the implication was to accuse the Romney supporters of a dirty trick, there was no indication Thursday that any campaign was involved in mailing the letters.

While Romney wanted to claim Iowa to meet the high expectations his campaign set in the state with an early lead in the polls, Huckabee was equally interested in a win to maintain the surging momentum and capitalize on the victory's free publicity.

Romney, whose reported fortune is $250 million, has spent more than $17 million overall in the campaign and more than $7 million on advertising in Iowa alone. That compares with about $1.4 million spent on ads in Iowa by Huckabee, though the Romney campaign claims Huckabee has benefited from third-party spending.

The Republican who places third in this race could gain the most momentum. And the front-runners were not the only ones fighting hard for every Iowan's support.

War hero and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has spent most of the last several months ignoring Iowa and gearing up instead for next week's first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. Yet, while the two front-runners sling mud at each other, McCain has seen a rise in his Iowa poll numbers in recent days. While he spent today in New Hampshire, he campaigned in Iowa Wednesday. A strong third-place finish in Iowa could propel McCain into a strong contender position against the front-runners in New Hampshire.

McCain, who has been defended by Huckabee during recent attacks by Romney, made the first candidate statement after the announcement of Huckabee's victory in Iowa. McCain congratulated Huckabee, and then took an apparent shot at Romney. "The lesson (of Iowa) is one, that you can't buy an election in Iowa, and negative campaigns don't work," McCain sdaid. "They don't work there in Iowa and they don't work here in New Hampshire."

For Fred Thomspon, the former Tennessee senator and actor, a strong performance would knock some life back into a flagging campaign that has never met the early expectations surrounding the buzz of his possible candidacy. Finishing in the bottom of the Iowa heap, some say, might mean an early exit for the "Law and Order" star.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani chose not to focus on Iowa and New Hampshire. Instead, his campaign strategy looks to larger states, such as Florida, whose primaries come in a few weeks. He has not been polling competitively among Iowa voters. And today, he underscored his strategy by spending the day in Florida  a state, he reminded reporters, that has far more Republican voters than the total who will cast ballots from both parties in Iowa.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, will see if his libertarian politics, fundraising success and online organization translate into delegates.

And finally, there is U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who, despite being the GOP long shot, trailing in nearly all polls, maintains that it's "an open race" -- if only he had more money and publicity.

The Republican caucuses in Iowa differ procedurally from the Democratic caucuses in that there are no viability requirements  votes don't swing to second-choice candidates if a candidate doesn't register enough support in the first round of voting. For Iowa Republicans, the only thing that counts is individual votes. That's why the Republican candidates often spend more time working the small state's populations centers  more bang for political buck.

At stake tonight? Thirty-seven delegates to next summer's Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

ABC News' Jake Tapper, John Berman, Kevin Chupka, Matt Stuart and Ron Claiborne contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

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