Mitt Romney on Tuesday won the New Hampshire primary in a landslide victory, the first primary of the Republican presidential campaign. Record turnout of an estimated 250,000 voters showed up in unseasonably warm temperatures to help Romney notch 40% of the vote. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) came in second, and Jon Huntsman came in third.
Romney had maintained a heavy lead in the Granite State for some time in the lead-up to the vote. Victory in New Hampshire was the second win for Romney this month, after the former Massachusetts governor narrowly won the Iowa caucus by eight votes last week.
New Hampshire, then, was all about who came in second. Jon Huntsman had made a significant polling push over the weekend, and was hoping to overtake Paul for the runner-up spot. Huntsman staked his campaign on New Hampshire, while Paul was hoping to cement his position as the true national rival to Romney.
Rick Santorum, who came in second to Romney in Iowa, doesn’t seem to have the same momentum in New Hampshire as he saw ahead of the Iowa caucus.
10:28 pm: According to CNN projections, Mitt Romney has won the New Hampshire primary. Voters turned out in record numbers. In a victory speech, Romney told supporters, "Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we go back to work."
"This president puts his faith in government. We put our faith in the American people," Romney said to cheers.
Exit polls indicated Romney would get about 40% of the vote, with Paul receiving 23% and Huntsman 17%. Gingrich and Santorum came in with 10% and Perry with 1%, according to the exit polls.
9:00 pm: Romney 37%, Paul 24%, Huntsman 17% with 40% of polls reporting.
8:00 pm: Romney 36%, Paul 25%, Huntsman 17% with 19% of polls reporting.
6:00 pm: Early polls show Romney leading with 37%, Paul at 18%, Huntsman at 16%, and Santorum coming in 11%. Newt Gingrich is at 9%, while Rick Perry and Buddy Roemer are both at 1%.
Many believe that Romney needed to win big in New Hampshire to dispel myths that he is a struggling front-runner, and to stabilize his position as the Republicans' top contender. A victory within the 20-percentage point range would have been seen as a disaster for Romney.
Paul, the libertarian candidate with a strong grassroots and millennial voter base, looked to gain more prestige from the New Hampshire primary, even with a second place showing. Though Paul came in a close third to Romney and Santorum in Iowa, many see him as filling the spoiler and rival role to Romney. In a GOP race where many Republicans see Romney as an uninspiring, bland presidential nominee, a second place showing by Paul proves valuable for the congressman. By painting himself as the alternative to Romney, Paul could position himself for a deep run into the election.
Santorum, though a surprising runner-up in Iowa, looks to be losing steam. His brand of pure social conservatism has not resonated in the more moderate northeast. A fourth place showing by Santorum in New Hampshire would not destroy his campaign, but it would force the former Senator to make a significant push in this month's last two primaries in South Carolina and Florida. Santorum can at least hope that his social conservative views will again be popular in those races.
While Huntsman has been a strong candidate in New Hampshire, and one who appeals to moderates, the former Obama ambassador to China looks like he will have only a marginal role in the campaign going forward.
Texas governor Rick Perry has focused his energy on South Carolina and Florida and polls near the bottom in New Hampshire. Newt Gingrich, too, seems to be running on fumes. Both candidates look set to likely end their campaigns soon.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore