It was not that long ago that the big political question was how Rudolph Giuliani would do against Hillary Clinton in the November election.
The Iowa caucus votes have made that question sound like ancient history, if not science fiction. The results of the Iowa caucus are only a small part of the story of this election year but their implications are significant.
One implication that reaches well beyond politics is that a state that is 95 percent white gave its biggest vote total to a black man.
More Iowa women voted for Obama than for Hillary. So much for the "race, class and gender" mantra among the intelligentsia.
So much also for the "inevitable" or "invincible" candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the biggest story out of Iowa is that 71 percent of Democrats voted against Hillary.
The next biggest story is that no one in either party won a majority. It is still a wide-open race in both parties.
As for the Republicans, Mike Huckabee won by 8 percentage points in a state where 60 percent of the Republican voters were evangelicals.
However surprising his victory, it was not massive by any means and the large evangelical factor will not be there in most other states, even among Republican voters-- much less in the general election in November.
With all the media attention to the various political rivalries in both parties, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that all of this is ultimately about choosing a President of the United States.
The question of what kind of President each candidate would make is infinitely more important than all the "horse race" handicapping that dominates the media.
By far the best presentation as a candidate, among all the candidates in both parties, is that of Barack Obama. But if he actually believes even half of the irresponsible nonsense he talks, he would be an utter disaster in the White House.
Among the Democrats, the choice between John Edwards and Barack Obama depends on whether you prefer glib demagoguery in its plain vanilla form or spiced with a little style and color.
The choice between both of them and Hillary Clinton depends on whether you prefer male or female demagoguery.
Among the Republicans, there are misgivings about the track record of each of the candidates, especially those who have shown what Thorstein Veblen once called "a versatility of convictions."
There are fewer reasons for misgivings about Fred Thompson's track record in the Senate but more reason to be concerned about what his unfocussed and lackluster conduct of his campaign might portend for his performance in the White House.