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.
When it comes to personal temperament, Governor Romney would rate the highest for his even keel, regardless of what events are swirling around him, with Rudolph Giuliani a close second.
Temperament is far more important for a President than for a candidate. A President has to be on an even keel 24/7, for four long years, despite crises that can break out anywhere in the world at any time.
John McCain trails the pack in the temperament department, with his volatile, arrogant, and abrasive know-it-all attitude. His track record in the Senate is full of the betrayals of Republican supporters that have been the party's biggest failing over the years and its Achilles heel politically.
The elder President Bush's betrayal of his "no new taxes" pledge was the classic example, but the current President Bush's attempt to get amnesty for illegal aliens, with Senator McCain's help, was more of the same.
President Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon probably cost him the 1976 election and cost the country the disastrous Carter years.
McCain's betrayals include not only the amnesty bill but also the McCain-Feingold bill that violated the First Amendment for the illusion of "taking money out of politics." His back-door deal with Democrats on judicial nominations also pulled the rug out from under his party leaders in the Senate.
The White House is not the place for a loose cannon.