But what did she learn? Her victory was apparently driven by moments of raw, spontaneous emotion: a flash of anger at a debate and, most of all, her choking up in a Portsmouth coffee shop, in response to a question about her hair.
Now she will have to channel those moments and try to maintain what her campaign sees as a new, authentic connection with the women who deserted her in Iowa and returned in New Hampshire.
"I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice," Clinton said.
Clinton appeared to commit to a strategy dramatically different from the safe, queenly pose she'd struck for much of the race, in which she took fewer questions from the press and from the public than her rivals and made little effort to connect emotionally with voters.
The victory appeared likely to tilt the campaign's internal argument further from pollster Mark Penn, who built Clinton's strategy of strength and policy, and toward other advisers, who for years have pushed to humanize the candidate.
But her new strategy may be an uncomfortable fit for a woman who has never appeared to enjoy giving up control, and her campaign's challenge now is to channel that fragile new perception of authenticity without smothering it.
It was a victory, her aides said, driven by emotion.
Her aides attributed the win — which, exit polls indicate, depended heavily on the support of women — to her tears in Portsmouth and to the sneering reaction from one of her rivals and the press.
"She was a candidate who had been portrayed until then as one-dimensional — I think unfairly — and people saw, 'She's human, she cares, she is like me,'" said a senior Clinton adviser, Ann Lewis.
Lewis said former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ unsympathetic words in response to Clinton's tears, and a lack of sympathy from television commentators, also drove a backlash of women toward Clinton.
"When John Edwards gets up there yesterday and announces that you need to be a big, strong man to be commander in chief — I think a lot of women, and men, read that and were appalled," she said.
As Clinton struggles to maintain women's anger and pride, and to project her personality onto the national stage, she also faces a welcome challenge: The expectations for her victory have revived.
Her New Hampshire triumph was a shock, because nobody in the state, including her senior aides, appeared to hold out hope for victory.
As late as Tuesday afternoon, Clinton aides were telling one another that the campaign's own tracking poll was predicting a wide margin for Obama.
They spent the day denying,— and not with particular energy, rumors that Clinton would bring in a prominent figure from Bill Clinton's administration — James Carville, John Podesta or Paul Begala, all of whom denied the rumors — to shake up the campaign.
In the press file at Southern New Hampshire University, where Clinton held her rally, the mood lifted gradually with the polls.
Moments before the television networks declared Clinton the winner, her campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, appeared in the room, cell phone in hand. It had, he said, been ringing off the hook.
"People with congratulations, people with money," he said.
"Sen. Obama came out of Iowa with a tremendous amount of momentum," said Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson. "We stopped lightning in a bottle."
Now they have to capture it.