"We thought if we finished in the top four or five we'd feel pretty good about that," Huckabee said in his concession speech. "Tonight, you've given us so much more than we could have imagined just a few weeks ago."
Rudolph Giuliani and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, each received about nine and eight percent of the Republincan votes in New Hampshire respectively.
Huckabee and McCain swapped places since Iowa, where McCain placed third, and Huckabee won.
After his campaign nearly imploded this summer, a cash-strapped but no-less-determined McCain focused his attention on this small but influential state's independent voters, who propelled him to victory in 2000.
Moderates, independents and late deciders were crucial for McCain, and he was boosted by a large advantage on the personal qualities of leadership, experience and straight-talking.
McCain won independents by 11 points over Romney, 38 to 27 percent, while they split mainline Republicans about evenly, 34 to 33.
Among voters who decided in the past three days (including today) -- 38 percent of the total -- McCain won by 40 to 29 percent.
Amid clear skies and unseasonably warm temperatures, voters turned out in record droves today, prompting the secretary of state to order more ballots and ratcheting up the heat in an already hotly contested primary. Some 23 percent of eligible voters cast ballots for a Republican. Twenty-eight percent voted for a Democrat.
At 71 years old, if McCain were to win the general election, he would be the oldest president ever inaugurated. Despite his age, the senator found support among the young independent voters in New Hampshire, a state divided almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans but lacking the social conservatives that carried former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas to victory in Iowa last week.
The economy was the most-cited concern among Republican voters, mentioned by three in 10. A quarter of voters cited the war in Iraq, and about two in 10 said either immigration or terrorism are key concerns, according to preliminary exit polling. Three in 10 Republican voters said former Gov. Mitt Romney "ran the most unfair campaign" versus about one in 10 who said the same about Huckabee and McCain alike.
Seen as a maverick within his own party, the Arizona senator's positions on national security, low taxes and global warming resonated with the independent-minded voters of New Hampshire. The positive turn in the Iraq War, a proposition McCain has long endorsed, may also have helped him among conservative voters.
McCain's next big test will be the Michigan primary a week from Tuesday; however, Romney, the son of a former Michigan governor and a native son, has led in the polls there for months.
But McCain's people said recent polls have shown McCain moving into a tie with Romney in Michigan, and that's before he can take advantage of his New Hampshire momentum.
A McCain adviser told ABC News' Ron Claiborne that the campaign is getting unexpected help from Huckabee who is making his own push in Michigan, which McCain believes will siphon off support for Romney particularly in Western Michigan, which, he says, has a large number of evangelical conservatives and home-schoolers.
With the winds of New Hampshire behind him, McCain's challenge now becomes fundraising, proving to the contributors who abandoned him over the summer that he has a real shot at victory.