MANCHESTER, N.H. New Hampshire voters kept Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's White House bid alive Tuesday and scrambled the Republican field more than ever.
The battleground now shifts to a series of states where each of the leading candidates believes he holds certain advantages.
The next showdown will be on Jan. 15 in Michigan, a vast state struggling with a recession and the loss of manufacturing jobs. It is where Mitt Romney was born and reared, and many still fondly remember his late father, George, a three-term governor. Romney will be flying there this afternoon, with his aides saying the state has become his firewall.
But McCain, who will be taking a charter flight to Michigan today as well, is looking to potentially finish off Romney there. In 2000, McCain defeated George W. Bush in Michigan, largely on the strength of support from independents and Democrats who switched over to vote for him.
A wild card is Mike Huckabee who has surged to the front of the pack in some national polls. He hopes for a surprise performance in Michigan but is looking more toward the Jan. 19 primary in South Carolina, a state with large numbers of evangelical Christians who form a natural base for this former Baptist pastor.
Waiting in the wings is Rudy Giuliani, who is at this point focused almost exclusively on a win in Florida's primary on Jan. 29 to slingshot him to the nationwide contests on Feb. 5.
"It is going to be a brawl," said Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.
Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, will be going to South Carolina overnight, while Romney and McCain were planning to fly there today, after their stops in Michigan.
All of the Republican candidates will be gathering in South Carolina on Thursday, for a debate in Myrtle Beach.
Averting the blowout loss that many polls had predicted allowed Clinton's campaign to portray the result in the Democratic primary here on Tuesday night as a stunning turnabout. Given how dire her situation had appeared just hours earlier, the spin was at least plausible.
In the end, she survived because registered Democrats preferred her to Sen. Barack Obama, though independents went for him, according to exit polls. And she benefited from strong support among women, a constituency that she worked hard to appeal to in the campaign's final days here.
Clinton is now likely to find it easier to raise money than she would have if she had been drubbed by Obama, as he had done in the Iowa caucuses. The internal squabbling about her campaign's management and strategy is likely to be quieted. And she will no doubt go forth making the obvious comparison: that just like her husband 16 years ago, she is now well positioned to battle her way to the Democratic presidential nomination.
In Obama, Clinton is facing an opponent who has seemed over the last week or two to embody a movement rather than to be a mere political candidate. He has at times been an elusive target, lifted on the wind of nationwide anti-Washington climate change. She has often appeared to be frustrated in seeking to challenge his level of experience, his consistency, his positions or his electability against a Republican party certain to fight hard to hold the White House.
"Obama is almost Teflon in terms of criticism," said Bob Graham, the former Florida senator and a Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, as he considered the challenge Clinton faces. "He doesn't have much of a record you can dissect," adding that his advantages included "his freshness, newness, star status."
The next two contests the Nevada caucuses and the South Carolina primary are being fought on what is not particularly welcome terrain for Clinton. In Nevada, the power union of culinary workers has said it will put its muscle behind Obama. The South Carolina electorate is expected to be about 50 percent black.
The fast-paced calendar leading up to the 22 state contests on Feb. 5 gives Clinton a limited amount of time to turn around the story line, to force the examination of Obama that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, said her rival has been spared.