Hillary Clinton, seeking to rebound from her disappointing loss in the first state contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, hit the campaign trail in the next battleground state on Friday.
Less than 12 hours after Senator Barack Obama captured the Democratic contest in Iowa and former governor Mike Huckabee prevailed in the Republican race, Clinton joined the host of Republican and Democratic candidates in New Hampshire fighting for votes in the presidential primary set for Tuesday.
"Are you ready for the next five days?" Clinton shouted to rally in Nashua, New Hampshire after taking the microphone from her most ardent supporter, former president Bill Clinton.
Clinton, who only weeks ago appeared to be gliding to the Democratic nomination, needs to regain the momentum after finishing third in Iowa with 29 per cent of the vote, behind Obama, who won 38 per cent, and former senator and 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards, who took 30 per cent of the vote.
Although New Hampshire's population is only about 1.3 million, the north-east state is seen as crucial for candidates to gain momentum in the state-by-state voting in the coming weeks to determine the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees for the November 4 election.
The next big contest is in Florida on January 29, followed by the February 5 super Tuesday when voters in 21 states, including heavyweights California and New York, head to the polls.
Obama, hoping to become the first African-American president, arrived in New Hampshire riding his strong showing in Iowa, telling a rally that he was the real candidate of change.
"We are using unity over division and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America," Obama said.
On the Republican side, the Baptist preacher and former Arkansas governor Huckabee capitalized on support from conservative evangelicals to handily defeat former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, widely regarded as his party's frontrunner along with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Huckabee took 34 per cent of the vote, finishing nine points ahead of Romney.
"Tonight what we have seen is a new day in American politics," Huckabee said at a victory rally following the Iowa vote.
Obama's breakout victory in Iowa is the culmination of his campaign for most of 2007 to challenge Clinton, wife of the popular former president and long seen as the centre-left's top contender.
Clinton, however, was still leading in statewide polls in New Hampshire and could hold on to her frontrunner status if she performs well in the crucial northeast state.
The three top Democrats had been locked in a tight race ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
Obama, whose father was from Kenya, is a Chicago lawyer and community activist whose personal charisma and positive style catapulted him to national prominence after he won a US Senate seat for Illinois in 2004. His success Thursday night came in a mostly rural state with a more than 90-per-cent white population.
Huckabee's win marked a serious blow for Romney, who had hoped that an Iowa victory would propel him to dominance in other early voting states because his biggest rival, Giuliani, mostly ignored Iowa to focus on New Hampshire and other key states. Giuliani finished with only 3 per cent of the Iowa vote.
Huckabee's upstart campaign caught fire in late autumn, as he performed well in several of the numerous candidate debates. Polling showed that religious conservatives in the right wing of the Republican Party looked to Huckabee - an ordained Baptist minister - amid their lingering doubts about the more liberal records of Romney and Giuliani on social issues.
The Iowa result shows that "people really are more important than the purse," Huckabee said, referring to how Romney had vastly outspent him..
Romney focussed on the fact that he and Huckabee had beaten candidates with much greater name recognition before the campaign began - Giuliani and Arizona Senator John McCain.
Romney is locked in a tight battle in New Hampshire with McCain, who drew 13 per cent of the votes in Iowa and was the top Republican vote-getter in New Hampshire in 2000.
McCain finished effectively in a tie for third place with Fred Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee and part-time actor.
Two veteran Democratic senators, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Joe Biden of Delaware, announced late Thursday that they would quit the race after each finishing with less than 1 per cent in Iowa.
It remains to be seen whether Edward's second-place finish can revive his campaign, which had stalled in the months leading up to Iowa.
TAGS: USA US elections