After months of debate and millions spent, the battle for the hearts and minds of Iowa Democrats was narrowly won by first-term Illinois Sen. Barack Obama Thursday night.
The African-American senator rode the support of independents and a public demand for change to the victory in the state.
As of 10:25 p.m. EDT, with 95 percent of the precincts reporting, Obama maintained a lead of 7 percentage points, with 37 percent of the vote, compared to roughly 30 percent each for former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
The call for change appeared to resonate with caucus-goers on the Democratic side. According to a pre-caucus survey of Democrats, about half of them said their candidate’s ability to bring about needed change was the most important factor in making their decision, and Obama won the support of half of this group.
“I have been seeing more and more something Kennedy-esque coming from Obama,” Democrat John Rethwisch told the Des Moines Register earlier this week. “But it’s always a gamble when you get somebody in there who hasn’t got a proven track record.”
The campaign released a video of Obama visiting a caucus site in Ankeny, Iowa, joking with supporters and calling the meeting, “Democracy in action.”
Edwards, who campaigned heavily in the state, was battling Clinton for second as the final precincts trickled into state party headquarters.
Seeking to rally supporters, Edwards heralded the vote, saying, “The one thing that is clear is that the status quo lost and change won.”
Looking towards New Hampshire, Edwards said the campaign would be about who best could implement the leadership change America wants.
In press interviews, Edwards saw his second place finish as an accomplishment compared to both Clinton’s and Obama’s huge spending in the state.
“I mean, we were grotesquely outspent in Iowa five-to-one and the fact that I’m as strong as I am now under these circumstances indicates that this message of change and standing up for corporate greed and fighting for the middle class and jobs really matters,” the 2004 vice presidential nominee said in an interview with The Associated Press