"I can't see that many voters will stop and re-evaluate John Kerry because he did well in Iowa," said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire polling center. "They already know the guy."
But the performance in Iowa could convince voters to give Kerry a second look, especially as Democrats search for a candidate who has the strength to prevail against Bush. As Dean's support has flagged here in recent days, some voters considering Clark and Kerry have said they don't believe the Vermonter is a viable candidate despite his early appeal.
With plenty of campaign cash still in his coffers and a formidable grass-roots operation in key states, Dean could make up lost ground in the coming weeks and still emerge with the nomination.
Edwards was hoping that the same expectations game that hurt Dean in Iowa and has historically defined so much of that state's notoriously quirky caucuses would work to his advantage in New Hampshire.
Perhaps the least-known top-tier candidate, Edwards has a good chance to capitalize on his unexpectedly strong boost in Iowa. His determination to run a positive campaign with a hopeful - and not angry - message could allow him to emerge as a positive alternative to his opponents if the others continue to attack each other.
The American Research Group poll showed Edwards in fourth place with 8 percent.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who like Clark skipped last night's Iowa contest to concentrate on New Hampshire, has yet to reap the benefits of that strategy. Unlike Clark, Lieberman has not seen an uptick in attention or popularity in New Hampshire; polls show him in fifth place.
Still, according to recent surveys, roughly 15 percent of voters are undecided, a sign that the contest remains fluid. And New Hampshire has a well-earned reputation for being contrarian, bucking the conventional wisdom to pick its own breed of winner.
"People in New Hampshire really don't like to be told how to vote - they get very fickle with that," said David Lang, president of the Professional Firefighters Union of New Hampshire, which is backing Kerry. "New Hampshire, above all else, doesn't like it when people from the outside come in and tell them what they're expected to do."