Romney gets a historic win in New Hampshire

Romney gets a historic win in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire
Romney gets a historic win in New Hampshire

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney kisses his wife Ann as he arrives at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester. AP photo

Mitt Romney easily won the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, leaving his opponents in disarray and taking a big step toward becoming his party’s choice to run against President Barack Obama in November.

Romney garnered 39 percent of the vote, a 16-percentage point advantage over his closest challenger, Texas congressman Ron Paul. The decisive victory in Jan. 10’s primary followed Romney’s narrow win in last week’s Iowa caucuses, giving him powerful momentum ahead of the crucial South Carolina primary on Jan. 21. Victory there and in Florida on Jan. 31 could effectively anoint him the nominee.

Because of his appeal to independent voters, Romney could be the toughest potential rival for Obama, whose popularity has fallen because of the slow U.S. recovery from the Great Recession. Exit polls showed the economy was the biggest issue in New Hampshire, as it has been nationwide.

Obama “has run out of ideas. Now, he’s running out of excuses. And tonight, we are asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year he runs out of time,” he said late Jan. 10.

Public opinion polls showed Romney leading his more conservative rivals in both of the next battlegrounds -- large states where his well-oiled, well-funded campaign machine could roll up the opposition. It would be the first time since 1976 that a Republican non-incumbent wins this contest and the Iowa caucuses that precede it.

Alternative vision to Obama

In recent weeks, rivals have stepped up criticism of Romney, seizing on his record at the venture capital firm Bain Capital. They paint him as a heartless profit-seeker who shuttered dozens of workplaces in the 1980s and ‘90s, laying off thousands of workers. After surviving a furious 11th-hour onslaught from his Republican rivals, Romney defiantly trumpeted his business experience as his number-one asset. “Make no mistake, in this campaign, I will offer the American ideals of economic freedom a clear and unapologetic defense,” he said.

 Romney has insisted that his private sector triumphs make him the best person to take on Obama, whose reelection bid is weighed down by the sagging U.S. economy and high unemployment. Obama “wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him. This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation,” he declared.

“This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision,” said Romney. Veteran congressman Ron Paul of Texas, a small-government champion whose opposition to overseas military interventions has rankled the party’s establishment, gets around 23 percent.

 Former U.S. envoy to China Jon Huntsman was on track to come in third with around 17 percent. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich was in fourth place at 10 percent, with Christian conservative former senator Rick Santorum, who had come in just eight votes behind Romney in more conservative Iowa, close behind at nine percent. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who skipped New Hampshire to go directly to South Carolina, clung to one percent.

Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.

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