There’s no shortage of angles to the results out of Iowa, but let’s briefly go one at a time, taking a look at Spin vs. Reality. Starting with the Dems:
Barack Obama — What Obama fans are saying: Iowa is the spark that will propel Obama to the Democratic nomination. What Obama critics are saying: Iowa’s just one state.
Who’s right? It certainly looks like the fans are, doesn’t it? There’s a lot of campaigning yet to be done, but an amazing eight-point victory — exceeding all expectations — with broad support from every constituency not only makes Obama the frontrunner, it will likely give him a big boost in New Hampshire and South Carolina. And if he wins all three, the race is over. On the flip side, Obama, not Clinton, will now quickly become the center of attacks from all sides. We’ll see if he can handle the heat, though my hunch is he can.
John Edwards — What Edwards fans are saying: We beat Clinton and are alive to fight another day. What Edwards critics are saying: He needed to win Iowa to stay competitive.
Who’s right? A little bit of both, actually. Edwards’ strong second-place showing certainly won’t force him from the race, but it’s going to be difficult to boost fundraising and poll numbers in light of Obama’s big win.
Hillary Clinton — What Clinton fans are saying: It’s only the first round of a multi-round fight. What Clinton critics are saying: Say goodbye to “inevitability.”
Who’s right? Again, both. Clinton isn’t going anywhere; she has the resources to keep the fight going over the long haul, and has solid support in Feb. 5 states. But now, she’s the underdog, and has no obvious avenues to retaking the lead.
Bill Richardson — What Richardson fans are saying: We came in first … among second-tier candidates. What Richardson critics are saying: Dude, you got 2%.
Who’s right? Critics are. If there’s a scenario by which Richardson makes a comeback, I don’t see it.
And then, the Republicans:
Mike Huckabee — What Huckabee fans are saying: Onward and upward, Christian soldiers! What Huckabee critics are saying: Iowa, Schmiowa, he still doesn’t have the resources to compete long-term.
Who’s right? Critics are.
Mitt Romney — What Romney fans are saying: Silver medal! What Romney critics are saying: Didn’t you have a huge lead in Iowa just a few weeks ago?
Who’s right? Critics are, and unless he can eke out a victory in New Hampshire, Romney’s in serious trouble.
Fred Thompson — What Thompson fans are saying: Third place ain’t bad for a guy who doesn’t campaign. What Thompson critics are saying: It’s only a matter of time before Thompson realizes he has to go.
Who’s right? Actually, both. It was a weak third-place showing, which won’t come close to giving him a boost anywhere. But the results probably won’t force him from the race. Yet.
John McCain — What McCain fans are saying: With a weakened Romney, McCain is suddenly the odds-on GOP nominee. What McCain critics are saying: Dude, you came in fourth, losing to a guy who was barely awake the last several months.
Who’s right? Regrettably, the fans are, thanks in large part to an adoring media which can barely contain its pro-McCain glee.
Ron Paul — What Paul fans are saying (probably in all-caps): We tripled Giuliani! What Paul critics are saying: Paul still isn’t going to win anywhere.
Who’s right? Once again, both.
Rudy Giuliani — What Giuliani fans are saying: 9/11! 9/11! 9/11! What Giuliani critics are saying: “Frontrunners” don’t come in a humiliating sixth place, with one-third the support of a libertarian gadfly, in a state where he was once in the lead.
Who’s right? Take a wild guess.