What happened
Democratic and Republican presidential candidates dashed across Iowa ahead of Thursday night’s caucuses, hoping to win over undecided voters. The contests in both parties tightened as early favorites lost ground in the weeks leading up to the first fight in the 2008 presidential campaign. (The Washington Times)

What the commentators said
'People, ignore whatever happens” in Iowa, said Gail Collins in The New York Times (free registration). “The identity of the next leader of the most powerful nation in the world is not supposed to depend on the opinion of one small state. Let alone the sliver of that state with the leisure and physical capacity to make a personal appearance tonight at a local caucus that begins at precisely 7 o’clock.”

The turnout in Iowa is always “ridiculously small,” said David Broder in The Washington Post (free registration), and the people who show up are “hardly representative.” Iowa’s caucuses typically “tilt the Democratic race leftward and the Republican race to the right.” If you’re interested in a “more reliable, less distorted lens through which to view the presidential landscape,” you’ll have to wait until New Hampshire’s primaries next Tuesday.

Iowans might not pick the winners, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial (free registration), but the caucuses still matter. “The outcome can destroy a campaign or turn obscure candidates into serious contenders.”

The argument for letting small states vote first is that it lets “little-known candidates, such as Jimmy Carter in 1976 or Mike Huckabee this year,” gain traction before going national,” said The Denver Post in an editorial. But the rush to be first has made the voting this year “ridiculously early.” It’s too early to say who’ll win in Iowa, but “the American people already are the losers.”

“There is a better way to do this,” said the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an editorial. A proposal in Congress to hold six regional primaries—with a “batting order” that rotates every four years—“would risk antagonizing Iowa and New Hampshire voters, but it would bring some “sanity to the way the nation picks its presidents.”