- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the first primary of the 2012 presidential campaign Tuesday night, beating back charges by his conservative Republican rivals that he is a political moderate and a corporate raider, to score an impressive double-digit victory in New Hampshire.

“Tonight, we made history,” Mr. Romney told hundreds of cheering supporters shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. and exit polls declared him the winner. “Tomorrow, we go back to work.”

With nearly all votes counted, Mr. Romney had 38.4 percent, comfortably ahead of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who was running a strong second with 23.3 percent. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who campaigned here nonstop in recent months, finished third with 16.7 percent.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania were in a tight battle for fourth place at just under 10 percent, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who barely campaigned here, garnering less than 1 percent.

Mr. Romney, who won the Iowa caucuses by a far more narrow margin a week ago, focused his victory speech largely on President Obama, telling supporters that Mr. Obama “has run out of ideas, and how he’s running out of excuses.”

“Our debt’s too high, and opportunities too few,” Mr. Romney said. Mr. Obama, he said, “wants to put free enterprise on trial.”

But the GOP front-runner also took some shots at his GOP rivals, who have tried to make his business career with a private-equity capital firm an issue against him.

In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with [Mr. Obama],” he said, clear reference to attacks on his business career by his GOP rivals.

“This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation,” Mr. Romney said. “This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. Our campaign is about more than replacing a president; it is about saving the soul of America.”

Rep. Charles F. Bass, New Hampshire Republican, called the result a “good win” for Mr. Romney, supplying fresh momentum for the next campaign test in South Carolina on Jan. 21.

“I consider any win a win, but this is a good win,” Mr. Bass told The Washington Times. “It gives him a bump going into South Carolina.”

Mr. Romney became the first Republican non-incumbent to win the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. His winning total was on target to substantially eclipse the 32 percent he received in 2008 in New Hampshire, when he finished second in the GOP primary to Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a result that helped drive him from the race.

Despite the result, all of Mr. Romney’s major opponents said they would carry on the fight at least through South Carolina.

Mr. Paul, the 76-year-old libertarian who attracts significant support from young voters, was performing far better here than he did in 2008, when he received only 8 percent of the primary vote.

“He certainly had a clear-cut victory, but we’re nibbling at his heels,” Mr. Paul told supporters. “We had a victory for the cause of liberty tonight. There’s no way they’re going to stop the momentum we have started.”

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