For the editors on the US newspapers and television stations it was debatable whether the biggest shock was John Kerry's win or Howard Dean's lacklustre showing in Iowa.
The Iowa result is seen as a serious setback for Howard Dean
Most agree the result has turned the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on its head, with Mr Kerry and John Edwards gaining vital momentum and Mr Dean's challenge suffering a serious setback.
The Washington Post said that, with the Iowa results dominated by two men given virtually no chance of winning just two weeks ago, "rarely in recent political history has the conventional wisdom been so thoroughly demolished".
Whatever happens, it adds, the scene is set for "a wild and wide-open race for the Democrats in the weeks ahead".
For the New York Times, Mr Kerry "shattered conventional Iowa wisdom that organization is all".
"To Iowa Democrats [Mr Kerry] showed himself to be what he has argued all along he was: the reassuring establishment candidate with the war hero's record, solid policy positions and broad experience in government to be a strong challenger to President Bush."
But while the media can make a candidate - it can break one too - and in many quarters it turned on Howard Dean.
"Dean KO'd" was the stark headline in the New York Post, which focused on Mr Dean's combative post-vote speech.
"Rolling up his shirt sleeves and shrieking so loud that his voice cracked, a raging Dean rallied his supporters with forced optimism and a pugilistic tone that stood in contrast to the formal upbeat speeches by his opponents," the paper said.
"'I'll see you around the corner, around the block,' Dean said, sounding like a bully taunting Kerry and Edwards, whom he'll face in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday."
'Live shot Kerry'
On the television networks, pundits reacted quickly to the surprise result.
"What happened today is that Iowans saw the arrogance of Dean himself. They saw this and decided to walk away from him," Michael Reagan said on Fox News.
IOWA RESULTS (Provisional)
1. John Kerry 37.7%
2. John Edwards 31.8%
3. Howard Dean 18%
4. Richard Gephardt 10.5%
5. Dennis Kucinich 1.3%
6. Al Sharpton 0.7%
[Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark not competing in Iowa]
"If he doesn't turn it around by the time he gets to New Hampshire, he is toast."
Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh told the channel why the anti-war vote did not carry Mr Dean to victory, saying, "The reality of all of this is that people are more worried about jobs than the war".
For CNN's Jeff Greenfield, wealthy John Kerry had found a way to connect with the average man in the street.
"John Kerry managed to overcome in Iowa something that has haunted him in [his home state] Massachusetts that he was not quite authentic. They called him Live-Shot Kerry," Greenfield said.
John Kerry's victory has thrown the race wide open
In New Hampshire they are aware of Mr Kerry's reputation and it has yet to be seen whether he will be seen as the unauthentic patrician or the Vietnam veteran, he added.
CNN's Bill Schneider said "experience" and "optimism" were qualities voters saw in John Kerry. They were not qualities they saw in Howard Dean, he said.
And speaking glowingly of John Kerry's formidable debating skills, Mr Schneider looked ahead to the general election in autumn as if the senator from Massachusetts had already won the nomination.
"You just wait until George Bush gets into a debate with John Kerry," he added.
'Shuffling the deck'
For the defeated Dick Gephardt - who dropped out of the campaign after finishing fourth - there were only political eulogies.
In 27 years in office without a hint of scandal, he had risen to great prominence, but found the transition to president a step too far, said Greenfield.
There were political eulogies for Dick Gephardt
The Washington Post said "[Mr Gephardt's] staff was at a loss... to explain how the force of thousands of volunteers and union members from Iowa and beyond failed to produce the intended results".
The strong second-place showing for Senator John Edwards also helped "reshuffle the political deck", the paper added.
Strategists from several campaigns told the Post "it may take several days for the contest to regain shape".
But as the contest moves on to New Hampshire, there was relief in the Iowan capital Des Moines that all had passed off smoothly.
Turnout for the Democratic caucuses, the most competitive since 1988, topped 122,000 participants, many of whom were first-time caucus-goers.
Using a new electronic reporting system, the Iowa Democratic Party had reported results from nearly all of the party's 1,993 precincts by 10pm, said the Des Moines Register.
"Tonight went smoother than a baby's butt," Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer told the paper.