Gov. Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was declared the winner in tonight’s Iowa GOP caucuses with 34 percent of the vote, to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 25 percent and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson’s 13 percent.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama turned in a solid victory over former first lady Hillary Clinton, with 38 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 29 percent, who was also bested by John Edwards’ 30 percent.

The vote totals reflected 93 percent of the Republican precincts reporting, and 100 percent of the Democratic caucuses already finished.

John McCain also came in with 13 percent of the vote on the GOP side and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul had 10 percent, while Bill Richardson had 2 percent of the Democratic vote.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

“I wasn’t sure that I would ever be able to love a state as much as I love my home state of Arkansas, but tonight I love Iowa a whole lot,” Huckabee told supporters, including “Walker, Texas Ranger” star Chuck Norris, who was with him on the podium.

“I’m amazed, but I’m encouraged, because tonight what we have seen is a new day in American politics. … But it doesn’t end here. It ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue one year from now.”

Ed Rollins, Huckabee’s national chairman, told FOX News the victory reflected the power of Huckabee’s message.

“But more importantly the power of the messenger,” Rollins told FOX. “It’s gonna give us some momentum … this is a great, great candidate and obviously the voters in Iowa saw that.”

Romney was gracious in conceding this particular race, but compared the Iowa triumph for Huckabee like the first inning of “a 50-inning ballgame. I’m gonna keep on battling all the way and anticipate I get the nomination when’s all said and done.”

Romney had expressed confidence earlier in the outcome, telling hundreds of people at a caucus site, “If you select me, I think I’ll go on to become the nominee. If you don’t, well, I’ll still go on to become the nominee.”

McCain called it a clear win for Huckabee, but said his own limited finances and absence of television advertising had triggered predictions his campaign would “finish very badly.” But he said the negative campaign conducted by Romney wasn’t effective, and left a door open.

Analysts noted that turnout at many locations was higher, sometimes much higher, than expected, and they reported that appeared to help Obama on the Democratic side, since his campaign specifically sought to attract new voters.

The Democratic caucuses used a formula that assessed the voters in each candidates’ corner, and then assigned votes based on the strength exhibited. Republicans used a simple straw poll in which caucus-goers wrote the name of their candidate on a slip of paper and put it in a box. The names are then counted and delegates apportioned.

Obama adviser David Axelrod told reporters his candidate’s message is one of unity. “We need to bring people together – not just Democrats, but independents, Republicans and unite them behind a progressive agenda for the future of this country.”

“I think you’re going to see the same energy … in New Hampshire and other states,” he said.

“What is most important now is that as we go on with this contest we keep focused on the two big issues, that we answer correctly the question each of us has posed, how will we win in November 2008? By nominating a candidate who will be able to go the distance and will be the best president on Day One. I am ready for that contest,” said Clinton.

Elizabeth Edwards introduce her husband to a crowd at his campaign headquarters as the “2nd-place winner in Iowa,” and that “despite the fact he was outspent 6-to-1.”

“The one thing that’s clear from the results in Iowa tonight is the status quo lost and change won, and now we move on to New Hampshire and the other states to determine who’s best suited to bring about the change this country so desperately needs,” John Edwards said.

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