MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night, Mitt Romney took to the stage as projections gave him a decisive victory in the first-in-the-nation Republican presidential primary.
The former governor of Massachusetts spent most of his energized speech attacking US President Barack Obama as a "failed" leader and outlining the ways in which he would lead the country in a new direction, including in the international arena.RELATED:Republican voters set up camp in New Hampshire Republican rivals target Romney at debate
"He criticizes our friends like Israel. I will always stand with our friends," Romney declared to loud applause, his only reference to a foreign country.
He began his victory speech by shouting to an enthusiastic crowd of supporters that "Tonight we made history!"
No other candidate who has not been an incumbent president has won the
New Hampshire Republican primary after also winning the Iowa caucus, the
first vote in the campaign. Romney squeaked to victory in Iowa by just
eight votes last week.
In Iowa he narrowly beat out Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania
senator projected to have garnered only about 10 percent of the vote in
New Hampshire one hour after polls closed.
With about 77 percent of the vote counted,
the networks said Romney had won 38 percent of the vote with congressman
Ron Paul in second with 23 percent.
The former investment firm chief scored the clear victory despite
rivals' fierce 11th-hour attacks painting him as a heartless corporate
raider who enjoys cutting jobs. Romney's stint as a relatively moderate
governor of neighboring Massachusetts has also sparked skepticism from
Voters responded to Romney's claim that his private sector experience would help him galvanize the weak US economy.
"I was looking for someone who is smart, knows our country, knows the
financial system and how to get the country moving again with jobs,"
said Eddie Carr, a 77-year-old school bus driver who voted for Romney.
"I think it was right to vote for him. I think he can get the country
Paul, a congressman from Texas known for his libertarian views, beat out
Jon Huntsman, a moderate former US ambassador to China, for second
place in New Hampshire, the small New England state known for its
independent streak and outsized role in presidential campaigns. Huntsman
had about 17 percent of the vote.
Romney became the first Republican who is not an incumbent president to
win the first two early voting states, after his slim eight-vote victory
over former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum a week ago in the Iowa
But he might face a bigger challenge in the next primary in South
Carolina on Jan. 21, where the economy is weaker and conservatives make
up a larger slice of the electorate.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday showed Romney was way ahead of rival
Republicans nationally, with 30 percent support. He still trailed Obama
by five points in the White House race.