A slightly leaner though perhaps no more settled presidential field arrives in New Hampshire on Friday, sorting out a wild finish to the Iowa caucuses with only four days remaining before the next contest promises to scramble the race again.
Of the various winners in Iowa -- turnout, the youth vote, the Des Moines Register's pollsters, rental car companies -- one looms large over both the Democratic and Republican fields: change.
It's that theme that unites the storylines that left Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former governor Mike Huckabee, R-Ark. -- Iowa's unlikely winning duo. Obama and Huckabee share little beyond their ability to speak to the hopes and aspirations of voters -- and political dreaming can be contagious.
Iowans' broad rejection of the political establishment -- and its two candidates of the moment, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass. -- could resonate throughout the coming contests.
Suddenly the inevitable candidate -- with all that money, all those endorsements, and the team that's cast her as "winning" the presidential race since before it started -- is looking extremely vulnerable. Thursday's third-place finish will force Clinton aides to earn their pay in the mad dash to New Hampshire, with little time to adjust perceptions and only so much spin to melt this frosting.
The story now: what tricks does Camp Clinton have to slow the O-mentum? Obama may be a hard guy to stop with a hope-filled wind at his back.
ABC News' Kate Snow reports from the Clinton press charter that senior campaign advisors suggested it's time to make some "contrasts" with her rivals.
"That's code for No More Mrs. Nice Guy," Snow writes.
"Will there be negative television ads on the airwaves in New Hampshire later today? It's highly possible. Will she go after Senators Obama and Edwards forcefully in tomorrow's debate, to be televised on ABC? It's likely."
Clinton strategist Mark Penn tells Time's Karen Tumulty: "We've got to start holding him to the standard people hold her to." Another adviser tells Tumulty: "You're going to see some very sharp media now."
Waving goodbye and looking ahead to Tuesday, David Yepsen warns of the risk of going negative in the short five days before the New Hampshire primary – it may sink Clinton deeper if she looks desperate.
As Clinton seeks a new message, look for her to be "gracious, embracing change, but raising the question of who is best prepared to bring about change," Politico's Mike Allen and Ben Smith report. They get a-hold of some Clinton surrogate talking points: "We're going to continue to make the case that in these serious times, when America faces big challenges, it will take a leader with Hillary's strength and experience to deliver real change."
"This was the moment when we tore down barriers that have divided us for too long," Obama said in declaring victory.
Nothing was torn down with the same violence that destroyed the shield of inevitability that Clinton aides had spent the better part of a year constructing. "The two winners burst the aura of strength and confidence that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Romney had tried to cultivate for months, and left both parties suddenly without a clear path to their nominating conventions, let alone November," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times.
Two candidates who sought to portray themselves as the most electable weren't at all when actual real people had their say.