DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican Mike Huckabee scored a resounding victory over Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama topped a tightly bunched Democratic field Thursday in the Iowa caucuses, the first test of the 2008 presidential campaign.
Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor once considered a near-fringe candidate, downed a much-better-financed Romney by drawing support from Iowa evangelicals and first-time caucus goers.
Obama, an Illinois senator seeking to become the first black president, rode a promise of change as Democrats surged to Iowa's precinct caucuses in record numbers. His victory over New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards suggested a hunger among Democrats to find a new voice and perhaps a new approach to politics. The top three finishers swept the field, and two of the laggards, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, abandoned the race.
On the Republican side, John McCain and Fred Thompson were in a tight race for the third-place spot.
After camping out for months in Iowa's cafes and town halls, the candidates were making a quick exit Thursday night, flying overnight to New Hampshire for a furious four days of campaigning leading up to the state's first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday.
The fast turnaround reflects the shortest and earliest nominating calendar in history. By Feb. 5, in a Super Tuesday extravaganza involving 22 states, a majority of Americans will have had their shot at shaping the 2008 presidential field.