WASHINGTON (CNN) – It takes something extraordinary to keep President Bush awake late into the evening, and the exciting Iowa caucuses - which resulted in upstart victories for Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama - were up to the challenge.
"The President watched the returns last night, he stayed up past his usual bedtime I think to wait for the results to be announced," White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters with a smile on Friday morning. "He watched the network coverage of the results coming in. It's something obviously that he's keeping an eye on."
Bush clearly does not want to show favor to any one Republican candidate at this preliminary stage, so Fratto said the President did not place a congratulatory phone call to Huckabee. "I think it's a little bit early to be doing phone calls," he noted.
But in private, the President is expressing admiration about the spirited competition thus far. "The President said that these races are great tests," Fratto said. "You win some and you lose some. And the question is: how do you do in the long run? He thinks it's a good test for anyone who will eventually end up in this job."
"And it's exciting for Americans to pay attention to it - he is," added Fratto. "He understands the range of emotions that candidates go through, both those who don't do as well as they expected to do and those looking forward to do better."
With the Huckabee and Obama victories being widely viewed as votes for change, Fratto was asked if the results should be interpreted as a sign that Americans are expressing fatigue with the President and his administration.
"No, I think it's an election season [and] people are ready for - to get on," Fratto said of the natural transition of power.
"It's good to see change in this job and the way we do it, especially if you put it in to the context of some of the troublesome transitions of power that we see happen in other countries," added Fratto. "We sort of take it for granted the way we do it. We have very competitive, hardly-fought election campaigns and graceful, peaceful transitions of power."
–CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry