Romney Wins New Hampshire GOP Primary

Romney Wins New Hampshire GOP Primary

By Carl M. Cannon, Scott Conroy & Erin McPike - January 10, 2012

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Mitt Romney swept to an expected triumph in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary here Tuesday, defeating a succession of rivals who now head to South Carolina for a contest that could be decisive in the 2012 Republican race.

“Tonight, we made history!” Romney told cheering supporters who clapped their hands and chanted his name, as the candidate, his wife Ann and their five sons stood behind him. “Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we go back to work.”

Sounding like a general election candidate, Romney used his victory announcement to deliver a tightly focused and well received speech that focused mostly on the nation’s tenuous economic condition and the candidate’s contention that President Obama has not done nearly enough to address it.

“We know the future of this country is better than 8 or 9 percent unemployment and $15 trillion in debt,” Romney said. “The president has run out of ideas; now he’s running out of excuses.”

In one sense, Romney’s advantages here in money, name identification and endorsements meant that the former Massachusetts governor was running against himself in the Granite State -- or, more precisely, against expectations. In Romney’s case, these expectations were that, despite the seven-candidate field, he’d win between 35 and 40 percent of the vote.

Judged this way, his victory was a success. He garnered 39 percent of the vote in an open primary and now becomes the first Republican presidential candidate to ever win in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Romney also prevailed Tuesday night by another, more subjective, measure: The order of the candidates who finished behind him suggests that he is well positioned going forward, with no viable alternative yet emerging to challenge him.

Ron Paul, the 76-year-old Texas congressman running for president a third time, came in second, dealing a direct blow to the hopes of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who finished a distant third. Rick Santorum, who came from nowhere to a virtual first-place tie with Romney in Iowa, was battling it out for fourth place with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, each of whom garnered slightly more than 10 percent of the vote.

Even less impressive, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who led the entire field for a while last summer, was fighting for sixth place with former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who was not allowed in the state’s debates and who couldn’t raise enough money for a sustained ad campaign because of a self-imposed contribution limit of $100.

Perry put the best face on things, though, issuing a statement full of Texas-type bravado:

“Tonight’s results in New Hampshire show the race for a 'conservative alternative' to Mitt Romney remains wide open,” it said. “I skipped New Hampshire and aimed my campaign right at conservative South Carolina, where we've been campaigning hard and receiving an enthusiastic welcome. . . . I have a head start here, and it's friendly territory for a Texas governor and veteran with solid outsider credentials, the nation's best record of job creation, and solid fiscal, social and Tea Party conservatism."

The night clearly belonged to Romney, who also leads in polls in the next two states on the primary calendar, South Carolina and Florida. The electorate in those southern states is more conservative than in New Hampshire, but the weak showing Tuesday by Gingrich and Santorum gives them no appreciable momentum as the campaign trail heads to Dixie.

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