The results are still trailing in as I write this, but the winners in Iowa have been declared.
For the Republicans, as I predicted Mike Huckabee took the top spot (though by a bigger margin than I expected). Romney was a solid #2, and at this point it's still a toss-up for #3 between Fred Thompson and John McCain.
On the Democratic side, I was right about Edwards and Clinton being very close, but I was way off in thinking that Barack Obama would be right there with them. Instead, he took the top spot by as large a margin as Huckabee did in the other party. Meanwhile Edwards and Clinton are still scrapping over the #2/#3 spots, with a slight edge to Edwards at this point.
It is interesting to review the breakdown in entrance/exit polls regarding where each candidate received his or her support.
In the Democratic caucuses, one striking note is that Obama's margin of victory appears largely made up of non-Democrats: Independents and Republicans who participated in the Democratic caucus went more than 40% for Obama, while among Democrats themselves Obama and Clinton were neck-and-neck at around 31/32%. Fully 20% of the participants in the Democratic caucus were self-identified as Independent rather than Democrat, and that seems to be where Obama has his strongest showing.
Meanwhile, in the Republican caucuses, of particular note is the fact that 60% of caucus-goers identify themselves as "Born-again or evangelical Christians", and almost half of that number supported Huckabee (a Baptist minister), far more than any other candidate, and more than twice as many as supported Romney. That likely tracks with another interesting statistic, almost half of all Republican caucus-goers rated "Shares my values" as the ONE characteristic most important in selecting a candidate; of those voters, 44% went for Huckabee, again almost twice as many as supported Romney. Also, those voters who think that shared religious views matter somewhat or a great deal (a whopping 67%), perhaps not surprisingly had a strong affinity for Huckabee over Romney, a Mormon. Independents also were a significant part of the Republican caucuses (13% of caucus-goers), however those Independents strongly favored McCain and Ron Paul over the other candidates in the race.
So what does this mean going forward?
For Obama, while this will doubtless give him a bump, the large lift he got tonight from independent voters may be harder to achieve in other states with more closed systems. On the other hand, it could be that his candidacy may prompt non-affiliated voters to register as Democrats in order to vote for him, which could help broaden the base of that party. For Edwards, this has got to be a disappointment and most likely means that he'll be brushed aside after New Hampshire (in just 5 more days). However, he might just be positioned for another run as VP (though honestly some of the maneuvering today makes me think that protestations aside, perhaps Richardson is really angling to share a ticket with Obama in the fall). Clinton has enough money to take this loss in stride, but certainly she'll need to adjust her message to shore up support. She does need to win in New Hampshire, or else it's going to be a very long month leading up to Super-Duper Tuesday.
For Huckabee, this is likely a positive sign that he'll be able to skip past New Hampshire (where his religious background won't play as strongly) and into other, later states where he can again use his religious views to his advantage. He's definitely a serious player on the Republican stage, now, however. Romney is currently fighting McCain for first place in NH, but if Huckabee can squeeze in there to take #2 (somewhat doubtful, but certainly possible with a bump from his significant win tonight) and shut Romney out to even a close #3, it could be the end of Romney's run as well. And McCain, who basically conceded Iowa early to favor New Hampshire, should be able to hang in long enough to make things interesting for the other guys. McCain won NH in 2000, and was running very strong in South Carolina shortly thereafter until some dirty tricks from the Bush camp that year caused him serious problems. Basically, the Republican field is still wide open and may very well not be decided until the actual convention (for a change!)