- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mitt Romney won New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary by building on the strengths that carried him to a narrow victory in Iowa and bringing in a broader coalition of tea party supporters and conservatives, according to exit polls.

THE ECONOMY: New Hampshire voters were more apt than Iowa caucus-goers to say the economy was the most important issue in deciding their vote, and the issue was again Mr. Romney’s best. Among the six in 10 voters who called it their top issue, Mr. Romney more than doubled the support of his nearest competitor. Mr. Romney and Ron Paul split the votes of those calling the federal budget deficit their top issue. Health care was cited as a top concern by just 5 percent.

LOOKING AHEAD: As in Iowa, Mr. Romney’s argument that he is the most electable candidate buoyed his candidacy in New Hampshire. He carried the votes of those who said their most important consideration was finding a candidate who could defeat President Obama in November. A majority of voters said they would be satisfied if Mr. Romney became the party’s nominee, while majorities said they would be dissatisfied with Newt Gingrich, Mr. Paul or Rick Santorum.

IOWA TROUBLE SPOTS: Mr. Romney carried New Hampshire’s conservatives and tea party supporters - both groups he failed to win in Iowa - and held a 10-point advantage among those who made up their minds in the last few days of the contest.

REGISTERED INDEPENDENTS: Voters who are registered as independents or who have not chosen a party made up more than four in 10 voters this time around compared with about a third in 2008. These voters split between Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul, with Jon Huntsman Jr. in third place. Mr. Romney carried registered Republicans by more than 30 percentage points. Unaffiliated voters in New Hampshire can choose to participate in either party’s primary; there was not a contested Democratic primary this year.

The exit poll was conducted for the Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Research as voters left their polling places at 40 randomly selected sites in New Hampshire. Preliminary results include interviews with 2,760 voters and have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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