Obama, Huckabee win nominations in Iowa

 

Barack Obama took a big step last night in his quest to become US president after he swept past Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in the opening Democratic nominating contest in Iowa.

On the Republican side, underdog Mike Huckabee beat main rivals Mitt Romney, John McCain, Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani.

We are choosing hope over fear, we are choosing unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America
Democrat candidate Senator Barack Obama

Mr Obama, an Illinois senator, captured the first Democratic prize on the road to the White House with a comeback triumph over former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who edged out one-time front-runner Ms Clinton for second.

"We are choosing hope over fear, we are choosing unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America," Mr Obama (46) told supporters.

Mr Huckabee's stunning win over Mitt Romney came despite being dramatically outspent by the wealthy former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist.

Both Mr Obama and Mr Huckabee (52), a former Arkansas governor and ordained Baptist minister, once trailed better-known rivals Ms Clinton and Mr Romney in their race to be on the November election ballot.

But they rode a wave of grass-roots enthusiasm to victories by touting an outsider's message of change in Washington.

"Tonight what we have seen is a new day in American politics," Mr Huckabee, with actor and supporter Chuck Norris nearby, told supporters in Des Moines. "Tonight we proved that American politics is still in the hands of people like you."

Mr Obama finished with 38 per cent of the vote, easily beating Mr Edwards at 30 per cent and Ms Clinton at 29 per cent. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson finished fourth at 2 per cent. Entry polls showed Mr Obama won big among young voters and even beat Ms Clinton among women voters as his message of change resonated with voters.

Mike Huckabee's surprising victory has turned the Republican race for US president upside down
Mike Huckabee's surprising victory has turned the Republican race for US president upside down

Mr Huckabee finished with 34 per cent of the vote, ahead of Mr Romney's 26 per cent. Arizona Senator John McCain and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson were tied at 13 per cent, with Texas Representative Ron Paul at 10 per cent and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani at 4 per cent.

The 2008 campaign is the most open presidential race in more than 50 years, with no sitting president or vice president seeking their party's nomination.

Turnout among Democrats in Iowa topped 220,000, beating the previous record of 124,000 in 2004, demonstrating the enthusiasm among Democrats heading into November's election.

For the winner in Iowa, the prize is valuable momentum and at least a temporary claim to the front-runner's slot in their battle to win the party's presidential nomination in the November election.

All eyes now turn to New Hampshire, which holds the next contest on Tuesday and where Mr Romney and Ms Clinton will face high-pressure bids to revive their candidacies.