His New Hampshire performance puts Romney's campaign in strong position going into South Carolina, the next primary on the calendar and one that historically has been key to the GOP presidential nomination. But Romney still has a fight on his hands, as the five other candidates vowed to press on and meet him in the Palmetto State.
In New Hampshire, Ron Paul finished in second and Jon Huntsman finished in third. Rick Perry finished in sixth place. Any remaining drama in the state was shaping up to be a race for fourth, between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Both candidates were pulling in 10 percent of the vote.
With 81 percent of precincts reporting, Romney was leading with 38 percent of the vote. Paul has 23 percent and Huntsman has 17 percent.
Romney's victory was apparent almost from the moment polls closed on Tuesday, and the frontrunning candidate addressed a jubilant and rowdy crowd in Manchester. The audience frequently broke out into cheers and chants of "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!" as the candidate vowed to take the fight into South Carolina, whose contest is Saturday, Jan. 21.
"Tonight, we made history," Romney said. "Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we go back to work."
Keeping his eye on President Obama, Romney described the incumbent as a "failed" leader who did not live up to the "lofty promises" made on the New Hampshire stage just four years ago.
"The president has run out of ideas, now he's run out of excuses," Romney said. He urged South Carolina to "make 2012 the year he runs out of time."
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