Instead of screaming, as he did after his third-place finish as a candidate in 2004, Howard Dean was in Iowa last night as his party's chairman beaming at a huge turnout that bodes well for Democrats' chances in November.
Dean's parochial delight is understandable, but the decisive Obama and Huckabee victories have a larger meaning--that voters are so hungry for change they are willing to entrust the future to the least-tested candidates in their parties rather than those with much more accumulated political experience, power and insider backing.
Both winners have George Bush to thank for that, but it may be a mixed blessing as they continue down the road toward nomination. When the exhilaration subsides, they will be tasked to deliver a detailed picture of their visions for the change they promise and challenged to defend its plausibility.
Huckabee's victory speech struck notes of caring and inclusiveness that Republicans badly need, while Obama rose to a new emotional pitch with echoes of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy in promises to end political polarization, social divisions and a misbegotten war.
With all the messiness of its process, Iowa has spoken clearly in making the first statement of this political year. Next week New Hampshire and next month le deluge.