This story was written by , Iowa State Daily
It started in Iowa. In the darkness of a January evening here in the Upper Midwest Barack Obama first showed that it was possible: that he could beat the Clinton political animal. Now it's over. The parties have their candidates. From many, the field of presidential candidates has been reduced to two.
Granted, Obama has been the de facto nominee for some weeks now, but Tuesday's primaries in Montana and South Dakota have finally sealed the deal.
The 2008 presidential primary season was quite an experience for both parties, and it remains to be seen what effect the prolonged nature of this year's nominating process will have on the November election.
In the larger scope of things, however, perhaps the length of the primary season was a net positive for American representative democracy. Participation in the primaries and caucuses, generally lackluster at best, rebounded nicely owing to the intense competition.
If anything, the track taken by the Democratic Party's process is a testament to the prowess of the Iowan caucus-goer.
Hillary's strategists had councilled a knockout blow in the early going, a move which her campaign was denied by, among other states, Iowa. Obama's camp, fueled by the early - and not altogether probable - win in Iowa deferred to a much more patient strategy, which ultimately won the day.
So, what lies ahead?
On the one hand, we have the newly minted Democrat-in-waiting, Barack Obama. Assuming he's extricated himself from the last of his ecclesiastical unpleasantries, the first-term senator from Illinois will have some definite questions to answer. Not the least among them will be the question of experience.
In contrast to Obama, John McCain's resume is a storied one: the son of an admiral, war hero, twice representing 1st District of Arizona as a congressman, 21 years a member of the Senate. McCain, however, has had problems within his own party, and is viewed by many on the far right as a centrist.
Both have already survived the refiner's fire of nomination - no easy task. Just ask Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. Or John Edwards, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden.
Being nominated, however, is an entirely different creature from being elected. If the fire was hot before, it's about to become even more intense.