( dpa ) - After a grueling primary contest in New Hampshire that saw Hillary Clinton pull the brake on the Barack Obama campaign with a huge comeback victory, candidates began looking to the next states in the competition for their parties' presidential nomination.
The Republican victor in New Hampshire, Arizona Senator John McCain, hit the campaign trail Wednesday in Michigan, which holds its presidential primary on Tuesday. Clinton went to her home in New York for a quick rest as she contemplates possible changes to her senior staff.
Clinton defied pre-election polls in New Hampshire that showed Obama with a big lead in the Democratic race, but edged him out by taking 39 per cent of the vote to his 37 per cent, regaining the momentum after a disappointing third place finish in Iowa last week.
"Now, together, let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me," Clinton, 60, told cheering supporters after Obama conceded defeat late Tuesday night. "It's time we had a president who stands up for all of you."
McCain, the 71-year-old Vietnam veteran who strongly backed President George W Bush's troop surge in Iraq, threw the Republican contest into a wide open race by prevailing in the northeastern state heading into the next series of state-by-state contests.
After Michigan, contests will be held later this month in Nevada South Carolina and Florida. The biggest day will be February 5, when voters in more than 20 states, including heavyweights California and New York, head to the polls. The presidential election is set for November 4.
Clinton's defeat of Obama restored the neck-and-neck race for the Democratic nomination. The two candidates are seeking to make history. Clinton, a senator from New York, would be the first women president, while Obama, an Illinois senator, is attempting to become the first African American to occupy the White House.
Sharpening her message with a view to the next primaries, Clinton said she would bring US troops home from Iraq, restore US "standing, credibility and respect around the world" and stand up for "the invisible Americans" who struggle to pay their bills.
Clinton won in the small, north-eastern state after several days of attacking Obama as a skilled speaker who lacks substance. During a five-day blitz in New Hampshire, she also provided an already iconic moment when she choked up and held back tears during a campaign stop.
Former US senator John Edwards was third at 17 per cent.
Clinton has run on her experience - eight years in the White House during husband Bill Clinton's presidency, followed in her own right by seven years in the US Senate.
Obama, who rode to victory in Iowa on a stirring message of change and political unity, conceded defeat in New Hampshire after returns showed Clinton with a steady lead throughout the vote count.
"I am still fired up and ready to go," he told supporters. "I want to congratulate Senator Clinton on a hard-fought victory here in New Hampshire."
With his supporters shouting "Yes we can, yes we can," the US senator from Illinois clung to his basic message.
"We know the battle ahead will be long. But ... nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change," said Obama, 46. "There has never been anything false about hope."
McCain claimed victory with 37 per cent over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, once the New Hampshire front-runner, who ran second on the night with 32 per cent. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who scored a breakout victory last week in Iowa, was a distant third Tuesday night with 11 per cent.
"Tonight we sure showed them what a comeback looks like," McCain exclaimed to a cheering crowd of supporters in Nashua, New Hampshire. "We celebrate one victory tonight and leave for Michigan tomorrow to win another."
New Hampshire appeared firmly in Clinton's corner only last week. Then, Obama capitalized on his momentum after Iowa and overtook her in the polls.
Former president Bill Clinton, still popular among Democrats and a key element in his wife's White House bid, landed some last-minute barbs against Obama on the campaign trail.
Meanwhile, Obama picked up effusive praise from former US secretary of state Colin Powell, the first African American to hold the post, who said he was "impressed" with the youthful Illinois senator.