Senator Barack Obama and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have won the Iowa caucuses, the first of the 2008 campaign. Obama won 37 percent of the delegate support in the Democratic caucus easily beating his top rivals. He is the first African American presidential candidate to ever win in Iowa, a state that is 95 percent white. We play excerpts of Obama and Huckabee’s victory speeches, and also hear from second-place Democratic hopeful John Edwards and third-place Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to the Iowa Caucus. We begin with Senator Barack Obama’s victory speech. He spoke before supporters in Des Moines after he won 37% of the vote, easily beating John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do. You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this new year, 2008.
In lines that stretched around schools and churches in small towns and in big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, we are one people, and our time for change has come. You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that’s consumed Washington, to end the political strategy that’s been all about division, and instead make it about addition, to build a coalition for change that stretches through red states and blue states, because that’s how we’ll win in November, and that’s how we’ll finally meet the challenges that we face as a nation. [...]
Years from now, you’ll look back and you’ll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope. For many months, we’ve been teased, even derided, for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.
Hope is what I saw in the eyes of the young woman in Cedar Rapids who works the night shift after a full day at college and still can’t afford healthcare for a sister who’s ill, a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams. Hope is what I heard in the voice of the New Hampshire woman who told me that she hasn’t been able to breathe since her nephew left for Iraq, who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return.
Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire, what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation, what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom’s cause.
Hope — hope is what led me here today, with a father from Kenya, a mother from Kansas and a story that could only happen in the United States of America.
Hope is the bedrock of this nation, the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.
That is what we started here in Iowa, and that is the message we can now carry to New Hampshire and beyond, the same message we had when we were up and when we were down, the one that can change this country brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand, that together ordinary people can do extraordinary things, because we are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America. And in this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.
Thank you, Iowa.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Senator Barack Obama spent a record $9.5 million on television ads in Iowa. That’s more than every candidate combined in 2004. Overall, Democratic and Republican candidates and various interest groups spent $50 million on television ads in Iowa.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won the Republican Caucus with 34% of the vote. Huckabee’s victory was seen as a blow to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who had outspent Huckabee seventeen to one. This is Mike Huckabee speaking last night.
MIKE HUCKABEE: Tonight what we have seen is a new day in American politics. A new day is needed in American politics, just like a new day is needed in American government. And tonight it starts here in Iowa. But it doesn’t end here. It goes all the way through the other states and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue one year from now.
I think we’ve learned three very important things through this victory tonight. The first thing we’ve learned is that people really are more important than the purse, and what a great lesson for America to learn. Most of the pundits believe that when you’re outspent at least fifteen to one, it’s simply impossible to overcome that mountain of money and somehow garner the level of support that’s necessary to win an election. Well, tonight we proved that American politics still is in the hands of ordinary folks like you and across this country who believe that it wasn’t about who raised the most money, but who raised the greatest hopes, dreams and aspirations for our children and their future. And tonight I hope we will forever change the way Americans look at their political system and how we elect presidents and elected officials.
Tonight, the people of Iowa made a choice, and their choice was clear. Their choice was for a change. But that choice for a change doesn’t end just saying, "Let’s change things." Change can be for the better; it can be for the worse. Americans are looking for a change, but what they want is a change that starts with a challenge to those of us who are given this sacred trust of office so that we recognize that what our challenge is, is to bring this country back together, to make Americans once again more proud to be Americans than just to be Democrats or Republicans, to be more concerned about being going up instead of just going to the left or to the right.
And while we have deep convictions that we’ll stand by and not waiver on or compromise — those convictions are what brought us to this room tonight — but we carry those convictions not so that we can somehow push back the others, but so we can bring along the others and bring this country to its greatest days ever, because I’m still one who believes that the greatest generation doesn’t have to be the ones behind us. The greatest generation can be those who have yet to even be born. And that’s what we’re going to see.
AMY GOODMAN: The closest race of the night was for second place in the Democratic Caucus. When we come back from break, we’ll hear the speeches, excerpts of John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
AMY GOODMAN: We go to the very close race between, well, the second and third Democratic candidates last night. John Edwards narrowly beat Senator Hillary Clinton. Both received about 30% of the vote. This is John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator.
JOHN EDWARDS: It’s our responsibility to ensure that we leave America better than we found it, that we give our children a better life than we’ve had.
And this is what I see in America today. I see an America where last year the CEO of one of the largest health insurance companies in America made hundreds of millions of dollars in one year. I see an America where ExxonMobil’s profits were $40 billion just a couple of years ago. Record amounts, record profits.
All of that happening at the same time that this picture of America emerges. Tonight, forty-seven million Americans will go to bed knowing that if their child gets sick, they’ll have to go to the emergency room and beg for healthcare. Tomorrow morning, women will go to their doctor and be diagnosed with breast cancer, just like Elizabeth was. But unlike Elizabeth, they’ll have no healthcare coverage. And as a result, they know that they can’t go to the emergency room and get chemotherapy. What are they supposed to do? What are they supposed to do? You can literally see the fear and terror in their eyes. Tomorrow morning, thirty-seven million of our own people will wake up literally worried about feeding and clothing their own children.
I went to a shelter here in Des Moines just a few weeks ago, where they took single moms with their children who had no place to live. And I said, “So do you ever have to turn people away?” Yes, a few months ago, they had to turn seventy to seventy-five families away in one month. And I said, “These are moms with kids?” Yes, some of them with three or four children. And I said, “Well, where did they go when you sent them away?” They went back to the street. Thirty-five million people in America went hungry last year in the richest nation on the planet. And tonight, 200,000 men and women who wore our uniform proudly and served this country courageously, as veterans, will go to sleep under bridges and on grates.
The United States of America is better than this. And what happened tonight is that Iowa caucus-goers said, “We want something different. We are going to stand up. We are going to rise up. We’re going to create an America that all of us believe in,” because the truth is, when we speak up, when we speak up for James Lowe and the millions like him who live in the darkness, when we speak up against corporate greed and for the thirty-seven million Americans who live in poverty, when we speak up for single moms who have no place to live with their children, when we speak up for hundreds of thousands of veterans who served this country proudly and are homeless with no place to live at night, when we do that together, as a nation — and Iowa caucus-goers did it tonight — when we do it, America’s a better place. It says something about who we are. It says something about our character, because when we do, America rises up. America becomes what it’s capable of being. And what began — and it is not over — what began tonight in the heartland of America is the Iowa caucus-goers said, “Enough is enough. We are better than this. We are going to bring the change that this country needs.”
JUAN GONZALEZ: After John Edwards announced his second-place finish, Senator Hillary Clinton addressed supporters in Des Moines.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: I have set big goals for our country. I want to rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class. And to me, that is the most important job the next president will have here at home, because if we don’t begin to pay attention to the people who do the work and raise the families and make this country great, we will not recognize America in a few years.
And I want to make it absolutely clear I intend to restore America’s leadership and our moral authority in the world. And we’re going to tackle all of the problems that are going to be inherited because of the current administration, including ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home and then giving them the support that they need. And we’re going to reform our government. We’re going to make sure that it is not the government of the few, by the few and for the few, but it actually works for every American again. And we’re going to reclaim the future for our children.
I have done this work for thirty-five years. It is the work of my lifetime. I have done — I have been involved in making it possible for young people to have a better education and for people of all ages to have healthcare, and that transforming work is what we desperately need in our country again. I am so ready for the rest of this campaign, and I am so ready to lead.
So if you’re concerned about whether or not we can have quality, affordable healthcare for every American, then I’m your candidate. And if you’re concerned about whether we can have an energy policy that will break the shackles of our dependence on foreign oil and set forth a new set of goals for us to meet together, then I’m your candidate. And if you are worried about once and for all taking on global warming, making it clear that we will end the unfunded mandate known as No Child Left Behind, that we will make college affordable again, that we will be once again the country of values and ideals that we cherish so much, then please join me in this campaign.
We have a long way to go, but I am confident and optimistic, both about the campaign, but maybe more importantly about our country.