Romney’s campaign was particularly pleased to come in first in Keene, home to many independent and moderate voters, and Concord, the state capital, where Huntsman was endorsed by some members of the City Council. The campaign also was pleased by its performance in the Republican strongholds of Derry and Meredith.
Jim Merrill, a top strategist for Romney in New Hampshire, described tonight’s victory as broad-based.
“We know how to organize, we know how to count votes and we know how to turn out those votes,” Merrill said in an interview after the race was called.
With a New Hampshire victory under his belt, Romney has become the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate to win Iowa and New Hampshire — ironic for a politician who had previously been unable to close the deal at this level. In 2008, Romney came from in front to lose New Hampshire to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) despite the fact that he had recently served as governor of neighboring Massachusetts and owns a home in the state.
In the final 24 hours of this year’s campaign, Romney was accused by his Republican opponents of callously laying off employees during his career as a venture capitalist, while also fending off charges from them that he enjoys firing people in general. Those attacks came Monday after Romney used some unfortunate wording while telling a gathering of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce that he supports policies that make it easier to change health insurance companies.
“I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them,” Romney said. “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”
The attacks failed to stall Romney’s big lead in the polls. But Romney noted the attacks in his victory speech. In fact, it was the only portion of his speech in which he mentioned his Republican opponents. In doing so, Romney lumped his GOP opponents in with Obama.
“President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial,” he said. “In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him. This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation. This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.”
Suffolk University’s final two-day tracking poll, released today, had Romney well in front of his rivals with 37 percent. Paul was second in that survey at 18 percent; Huntsman was nipping at his heels with 16 percent. Santorum and Gingrich brought up the rear with 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Perry, who did not campaign in New Hampshire and went straight to South Carolina after the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, registered 1 percent.
Romney’s success was demonstrated in exit polling statistics reported by Fox News at 6 p.m. According to the network, Romney was winning among voters who decided late with 29 percent, a key metric given New Hampshire’s history of upsetting frontrunners who were leading in the polls heading into Election Day.
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