Democratic candidate U.S, Senator Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, are back on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, seeking to capitalize on their stunning victories in Thursday night's Iowa caucuses. The unexpected wins, each by a solid margin, by both Obama and Huckabee surprised the political establishment in Washington, as VOA correspondent Cindy Saine reports.
Barack Obama, 46, the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother from Kansas, managed to soundly defeat expected front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton, in a state whose voters are almost 95 percent white. The former civil rights lawyer and community activist attracted young and independent voters to turn out for the Iowa caucuses in record numbers by promising to stand for change. Speaking to crowds on the morning after his win, Obama was jubilant, seeing a real boost to his dream of becoming the first African-American president.
"We will change the world," he said. "That is the opportunity that begins right here, right now, four days from now in New Hampshire. Stand with me, thank you."
His victory stung Senator Clinton, 60, who despite having raised $100 million for her campaign, came in third place in Iowa. She has been emphasizing her 35 years of experience. She says she is the candidate ready to hit the ground running on her first day as president in the White House, she spent eight years there as President Bill Clinton's First Lady. She also resumed the campaign fight in New Hampshire Friday, where polls indicate a virtual tie between her and Obama.
"Are you ready for the next five days? Well so am I," she said. "I am looking forward to meeting as many people here across New Hampshire."
Former U.S. Senator John Edwards also vowed to fight on in the Democratic race, though he is trailing Clinton and Obama in the polls in New Hampshire. Democratic Senators Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd dropped out of the race after poor showing in Iowa.
The other political earthquake in Iowa was triggered by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who was relatively unknown outside his home state just weeks ago. He was vastly outspent in Iowa by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, but beat him by a wide margin.
The likable, joke-telling former Baptist minister has criticized the corporate greed of Wall Street and called President Bush's foreign policy "arrogant", which has not made him a favorite of the Republican Party's political establishment. But Evangelical Christians, who are strong in Iowa, turned out in full force for Huckabee. He is trailing Romney and Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain in the polls in New Hampshire, but he hopes to gain ground.
"My tax plan, which would completely overhaul the tax system, is connecting with voters in New Hampshire," he said. "We only have a few days to close the sale, but I think the momentum coming out of Iowa is going to be good for us."
After his stinging defeat in Iowa, the former Massachusetts governor and successful businessman Romney was cautious, seeking to downplay expectations.
"I'd like to do very well in New Hampshire, of course I'd like to win," he noted. "I don't think you have to win Iowa or New Hampshire, we've had nominees that haven't won either state before."
The candidates only have four days to savor their victories or recover from their losses until New Hampshire voters have their say on Tuesday.