No two ways about it. Tonight is a huge, huge night for Barack Obama, and a terrible, terrible night for Hillary Clinton (who it appears will finish third by a whisker) and — especially — John Edwards (who really needed a win or at least a close second, but who got neither). They all had a shot to win, and they all tried hard. Obama did it; the others didn’t. Now Obama rides a big wave into NH, where he’s already polling neck-and-neck with Clinton in the state that was supposed to be Clinton’s fail-safe. If he wins NH, and I’m guessing he does, what then? He probably wins South Carolina, and even if Clinton wins Nevada, Obama is then three-for-four going into super-duper Tuesday. (Michigan and Florida, which Clinton will win, don’t count, because they’ve been disqualified and the candidates aren’t campaigning there; IIRC only Clinton is on the ballot in Michigan.)
Major kudos are due to the Obama campaign, which performed brilliantly, to Obama himself, who did the same, and perhaps to Oprah Winfrey, who may have moved votes into Obama’s column and who certainly caused the media spotlights to shine brightly on Obama for several critical days.
Hard to see where Edwards goes from here. Clinton has plenty of money and organization left, so she lives to fight another day, but she may consider a modified Giuliani strategy at this point — don’t abandon NH, of course, but start looking hard for wins in big states on Feb. 5; don’t sweat too much about the small stuff between now and then. We’ll see.
UPDATE: CNN is reporting that Senator Chris Dodd will drop out of the race in light of his very poor (0.02%) showing tonight. Drat — now I have to figure out who I’m voting for all over again!