When Rudy Giuliani took the stage at a fundraiser in Rock Hill last October, it seemed as though he and his Republican audience already knew who their opponent in the general election would be.
"Boy, she's just begun," Giuliani told 250 listeners, many of whom wore buttons emblazoned with "Hillary" and a diagonal red line through her name. "Hillary has just begun to spend your money."
Three months later, the race is far more unsettled than Giuliani or anyone else could have imagined that night at the Laurel Creek clubhouse.
Clinton's narrow victory Tuesday in New Hampshire guarantees that she will remain viable going into Feb. 5, when a wave of states vote on what's known as Super Tuesday. Before then, South Carolina gets its say, with Republicans voting on Jan. 19 and Democrats following on Jan. 26.
"Even if she loses South Carolina, she can go into Florida and say, 'You clearly see I can win,'" said Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon. "She clearly goes into Super Tuesday still in it. A win, no matter how tiny in New Hampshire, helps her do that."
The New Hampshire results left Republicans as unsure about their future opponent as they are with their own nominee.
GOP candidates had already started fine-tuning in response to Obama's rise, in many cases playing up themes they've had all along. John McCain, who won New Hampshire on the GOP side, says he can compete for independent voters who would otherwise be lost to the Democrats.
McCain will visit Lake Wylie next Wednesday for a town hall meeting at T-Bones on the Lake, his campaign announced Tuesday.
Mitt Romney and Giuliani tout their executive experiences as heads of government. Fred Thompson talks about his foreign policy credentials. Huckabee stresses his background as a Washington outsider.
Zeroing in on record
Any of them could make a case against two candidates with similar records, contends York County Republican Party Chairman Glenn McCall.
"His policies -- they aren't much different than Hillary's," McCall said of Obama. "As people start looking at, 'What does it mean to my wallet and my family?' that star appeal will kind of fade away, and he'll have to really convince folks of his platform."
In Obama, voters would find less baggage but also a thinner record, said Karen Kedrowski, a political scientist at Winthrop University.
"He's a more difficult opponent in that he's not polarizing," she said. "On the other hand, they'll scrutinize his record. They can raise questions about his experience. He did not have to make the same kind of difficult choices that all those other people had to do."
Hillary camp looks ahead
Clinton supporters believe their candidate is well-positioned for a comeback. They figure Clinton's battle-tested experience is resonating with voters.
"Everything is about change now," said Robert Hussey of Rock Hill, a retired truck driver who volunteers for Clinton. "Even the Republicans have picked up on that. That word is almost getting to the point of being overused. What changes are you talking about?"
That's a question Clinton will press in coming weeks, hoping she can carry her momentum from New Hampshire to the other early-voting states.