Barack Obama can start taking drape measurements at the White House. It's hard to see how, and by whom, he can be stopped now -- and by that I mean all the way, not just in the primaries.
John Edwards vowed to continue the fight, of course, but he's broke and his troops are dispirited, with the emphasis on broke. Iowa was a must-win for the former senator and vice-presidential candidate, who's been campaigning there virtually since the caucus doors closed in 2004.
What little money Edwards did have coming in will now dry up. So his supply lines are severed, his forces are dazed and scattered, and he's sandwiched between two behemoths loaded with cash. A reprisal of his v.p.-candidate role is the best he can do.
And things look nearly as bleak for Hillary Clinton, that behemoth #2 who managed no better than third. Early on in this already truncated nominating process the Clinton campaign thought it might be best to skip Iowa, and this morning I imagine there are a lot of "gut-instinct" references being dropped on the geniuses who overruled that strategy.
Naturally the height of Obama's Iowa bounce in New Hampshire is impossible to yet predict, but bounce he undoubtedly will. And he didn't need much of one. He was already making serious inroads into Clinton's N.H. numbers -- and now the inevitability worm has turned. Plus, her future money will start seeking safer harbor.
You can also add to Obama's column the assorted and presently wandering Biden and Dodd voters, who, having originally been in search of change, are unlikely to align at this late hour with third-place experience.
Hence Clinton's firewall is moved once again -- this time, Giuliani-like, to Feb. 5; next time to 2012 or '16.
As for the Dark Side, it would seem that Mike Huckabee managed merely to open the road for John McCain. With the possible exception of upcoming South Carolina, the Huck staged his finest hour last night, as his hordes of religiously bigoted evangelicals marched with torches lit to the cavernous caucuses, whereupon they eviscerated and exorcised the Evil One of differing faith.
You gotta love it: sectarian war in Ottumwa. My guess? By 2011, Mitt will have converted to Pentecostalism.
In the much shorter term, however, Republicans are still left in search of a candidate, and the pickings are growing slimmer by the hour.
Romney wasn't just beaten last night; he was bloodied and humiliated. His N.H. numbers are now likely to plummet like a spinning altimeter in a nosedive, and he's already seen the future in South Carolina. By Feb. 5, he'll be but a memory.
Rudy Giuliani hasn't been seen since he bivouacked in Miami, where his firewall hopes are going up in flames. Fred Who squeaked out the narrowest of thirds last night, but I doubt he has bothered to notice. If he has, he's probably only depressed by the necessity of now having to prolong the agony another week or so. As for Ron Paul, I imagine he's occupied this morning by researching third-party state-ballot requirements.
So Republicans are left with Mr. McCain, unless they opt for an "Animal House"-like act of insane futility and go with the Huck. Such kamikaze missions are not unknown in American politics, but this one's unlikely. The non-evangelical Establishment will dig in, hunker down, and hit back.
But although the Arkansas governor parted the sea for McCain's nomination, and although McCain is no doubt bathing himself in celestial rays of sunlight and angelic choral singing this morning, the water is destined to flood in again. The electorate is heavily trending Democratic (as last night's caucus attendance numbers confirmed); rank-and-file conservatives are still cranked at McCain; the war he ballyhoos will intensify in the coming months; the economy will continue its southerly path; more people will lose their health care, which McCain's wholly market-driven cure won't cure; Americans are just plain sick of the GOP ... and so on, and so on.
The only thing that could really upset all other things considered is Mayor Bloomberg's billion-dollar hat in the ring. That decision awaits us.
Otherwise, and excluding that, you may pre-order your Obama Inaugural Ball tickets today.
Unless of course I'm wrong.