MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - Failing to parlay his win in last week's Iowa caucuses to a victory in the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Barack Obama said he was "still fired up and ready to go."
The junior senator from Illinois congratulated Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York for her win and praised "all the candidates in this race" as "patriots who serve this country honorably."
"But the reason our campaign has always been different, the reason we began this improbable journey almost a year ago, is because it's not just about what I will do as president," he said. "It is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of the United States of America, can do to change it. That's what this election is all about."
CNN projected Clinton to win with 72 percent of precincts counted, basing it on reported results, exit polls and other statistical models.
As she had most of the night, Clinton held a 39 percent to 37 percent lead over Obama with 81 percent of the precincts in.
But Obama assailed critics who he said doubted his campaign and said that the record numbers of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire showed that "there is something happening in America."
"You, all of you who are here tonight, all of you who put so much heart and soul and work into this campaign, you can be the new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness," he said. "Democrats, independents and Republicans who are tired of the division and distraction that has clouded Washington."
"For most of this campaign, we were far behind," he said. "We always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out and you spoke up for change."
Obama pledged to end tax breaks for the rich, to "end the outrage of unaffordable and unavailable healthcare" and "end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home."
"We will finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We will care for our veterans. We will restore our moral standing in the world, and we will never use 9/11 to scare up votes. 9/11 is not a tactic to win votes, but a challenge to unite America."
Obama also responded to critics who he said cautioned his campaign against offer "false hope."
"In the unlikely story that is America," he said, "there has never been anything false about hope."
And, he said, his response to those naysayers is "one simple creed - yes, we can."
"Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can, and so tomorrow as we take the campaign south and west ... we will remember that there is something happening in America, that we are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people and one nation and together we will begin the next great chapter in the story with three words that ring from sea to shining sea - yes, we can."