They're still counting the votes in Iowa, and John Edwards and Hillary Clinton are still in a tight race for second place behind Barack Obama. But appearing at a victory party in Des Moines a few minutes ago, Elizabeth Edwards introduced her husband as the "next president of the United States" and the "second-place winner in Iowa."
John Edwards didn't claim that mantle for himself, but his speech sounded like one delivered by a winner. Edwards said that "the result from Iowa tonight is that the status quo lost and change won," and that the people of Iowa have said, "enough is enough, we are better than this, we are going to bring the change this country needs."
It's not clear that the Clinton campaign is ready to concede that Hillary Clinton has finished behind Edwards.
In a statement just released by the Clinton campaign, Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle offered congratulations to Barack Obama but said nothing about Edwards. "It's been a hard fought race here in Iowa for the last year and all eyes now turn to New Hampshire," she said. "Hillary is going to continue making the case that in these serious times when America faces big challenges, it will take a leader with the strength and experience to deliver real change. This race begins tonight and ends when Democrats throughout America have their say. Our campaign was built for a marathon and we have the resources to run a national race in the weeks ahead."
Clinton herself said that the huge turnout in Iowa is good news for Democrats and a sign that the party will do well in 2008. "Together, we have presented the case for change," she said before thanking caucus goers for coming out "for a Democrat." Clinton stressed that a "national campaign" still lies ahead and said that she's "so ready to lead."
Clinton said: "We have a long way to go, but I am confident and optimistic -- about the campaign, but more importantly about our country."
One candidate who's apparently ready to face the music: Sen. Chris Dodd, who finished way out of the money tonight, will reportedly drop out of the race in the morning.
Update: With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, Edwards now leads Clinton by a single percentage point.