Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Republican Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas were the big winners Thursday in the Iowa caucuses, the first major test of the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Iowa's state capital of Des Moines.

Obama is seeking to become the first African-American president, and he got off to a fast start in Iowa, where a record number of Democrats turned out on a cold winter's night.

Obama defeated former North Carolina Senator John Edwards and the longtime Democratic frontrunner for president, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York.

Obama thanked his supporters in Iowa and said his victory represented a yearning for change.

"In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and independents to stand up and say, we are one nation, we are one people and our time for change has come!" said Barack Obama.

Senator Clinton finished a disappointing third in Iowa, narrowly trailing John Edwards, who finished second.

"The one thing that is clear from the results in Iowa tonight is that the status quo lost and change won," said John Edwards.

The Democratic results in Iowa set up a showdown next Tuesday between Obama and Clinton in New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first presidential primary.

Obama and Clinton have been running near the top of the polls in New Hampshire, with Edwards trailing.

Clinton told supporters she will continue to push as hard as she can in New Hampshire and in the rest of the upcoming primaries and caucuses.

"Today we are sending a clear message that we are going to have change and that change will be a Democratic president in the White House in 2009!" said Hillary Clinton.

In the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee easily defeated former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, capping a remarkable political journey in which Huckabee went from an obscure Republican contender several months ago to the winner of the Iowa caucus vote.

"A new day is needed in American politics, just like a new day is needed in American government," said Mike Huckabee. "And tonight, it starts here in Iowa, but it does not end here. It goes all the way through the other states and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue one year from now."

Huckabee's victory in Iowa was a big disappointment to former Governor Romney, who spent more time and money in Iowa than the other Republican contenders.

But Romney vowed to fight on in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, comparing his quest to that of an Olympic athlete.

"You win the Silver [medal] in one event, it does not mean you are not going to come back and win the Gold in the final event, and that we are going to do," said Mitt Romney.

Trailing behind Huckabee and Romney in the Republican race were former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.

McCain is hoping his Iowa showing will boost his chances in New Hampshire, where he has been gaining in the polls on Romney, who had been leading there for months.

McCain spoke to reporters in New Hampshire following Huckabee's victory in Iowa.

"I very confident that with a strong, positive finish here that we are going to win here in New Hampshire and go on to Michigan and South Carolina," said John McCain.

Iowa is only the beginning of the 2008 race for the White House. After New Hampshire on Tuesday, the campaign moves on to Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida.

The presidential primary season will reach a climax on February 5 when more than 20 states will hold primary or caucus votes.