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U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addresses the crowd at a campaign rally in Nashua, N.H., on Feb. 2.


The forecast for the coming week in New Hampshire calls for mild temperatures. The forecast for the state's political climate is something quite different.

Already Iowa – where Texas Senator Ted Cruz sculpted a solid Republican victory and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont ended the Democratic struggle in a virtual tie – seems like the set of Brigadoon, abandoned for another four years. Already the performers and the stage set have moved to New Hampshire, which holds its primary next Tuesday. And already the candidates are responding to a political soundtrack that has been altered substantially.

But the candidates' move from Iowa to New Hampshire comes with one warning: Conservatism in the Granite State, which hews to traditions and cherishes its early 17th-century origins, is of a different character from conservatism in Iowa, a land which American settlers didn't reach until the early 19th century and a state that repeatedly has been roiled by protests and agrarian revolt. Conservatism in New Hampshire is an outlook. Conservatism in Iowa is an outlet.

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Now that the campaign has reached New Hampshire, the script has changed to reflect the new circumstances.

Mr. Cruz becomes, at least for a week, the putative Republican front-runner. Businessman Donald Trump, whose image as a perennial "winner" – his term – was tarnished by a second-place finish, may hold a substantial lead in the polls, but suddenly the man accustomed to being on the offensive is on the defensive.

Ms. Clinton, whose aura of inevitability has been shattered, now needs a win to restore her position at the top of the greasy pole of Democratic politics. And Mr. Sanders, holding the whip hand as a neighbour of the Granite State, must have a clear victory to sustain his campaign before it moves to more hostile territory in America's South.

But the shock waves from Iowa don't stop there, and nor do the imperatives.

One of them belongs to Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who finished a strong third (23 per cent). That figure can be underestimated only at great peril; in 1988, vice-president George H.W. Bush took third with far less support (nearly 19 per cent), but still won the New Hampshire primary, the Republican nomination and the White House.

Suddenly Mr. Rubio, feared for months by the mainstream candidates who planted their hopes in the rocky soil of New Hampshire, is a formidable force in next week's contest. Suddenly he's a legitimate contender for Republican voters who find Mr. Cruz too unappealing and Mr. Trump too unfiltered.

At the same time, New Hampshire will either toll the death knell to an important clutch of candidates or breathe new life into them, especially the once highly regarded moderates now competing merely to survive. All of them finished in low-single digits in Iowa: former governor Jeb Bush of Florida (3 per cent in Monday caucuses), Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey (2 per cent) and Governor John Kasich of Ohio (2 per cent). Together, these three have spent 170 campaign days in New Hampshire, which has a population roughly the size of Montreal. Mr. Trump and Mr. Rubio each have spent only 22 days there, Mr. Cruz only 15.

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The New Hampshire fight will be the second phase of one of the fiercest insurrections in American history, which already has transformed conventional politicians with substantial records and huge campaign treasuries into foils for rebels whose campaign rationales are that they lack experience, have no stake in the totems and taboos of American politics, and have contempt for the customs of campaigning.

All those who finished at the top of the lists Monday in Iowa face one unalterable fact, also steeped in history: New Hampshire is independent-minded and requires an intimate form of campaigning. It rewards underdogs – a fact Ms. Clinton understands because, in 2008, she was one. She lost Iowa but roared back in New Hampshire, mostly because she altered her approach and emphasized retail politics over wholesale politics. It's a hard lesson, but an unavoidable one.

"This primary makes it possible for the little guy – the lesser-funded candidate – to compete," says Terry Shumaker, who served as state co-chairman of Bill Clinton's campaigns in both 1992 and 1996. "New Hampshire requires the candidates to talk to regular folk and, most important, to listen to what their concerns are."

Of all the narratives punctured by Iowa, the most intriguing and enduring might be that of Mr. Trump's self-proclaimed status as a "winner." About three-quarters of Iowans indicated that they preferred someone else as president.

"Once real people showed up at the caucuses, Donald Trump didn't do as well as he thought he would," says David Redlawsk, a Rutgers University political scientist who has written a book about the caucuses and who was in Iowa for much of the campaign season.

"That's the thing about Trump. The whole pitch of the campaign was to vote for him because he was a winner. Now there are at least two other people the Republicans have to work with."

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The vital question for the man who vanquished Mr. Trump is whether Mr. Cruz will have a post-Iowa surge and take advantage of the fact that New Hampshire voters customarily make their decisions late; some polls suggest that nearly half of the state's voters have yet to decide.

That is important because, unlike Iowa, New Hampshire permits independents – those not aligned to any party – to vote. The slice of undecideds is bigger than either political party – which is why no front-runner is safe in New Hampshire. Nor, it might be added, is any prediction.

David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of U.S. politics.

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