Polls Close in New Hampshire, Romney Claims Victory

Posted January 10th, 2012 at 9:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has claimed victory in the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire, after major news organizations projected his win.

The polls are now closed, with early returns showing Romney with a double-digit lead over Texas Congressman and anti-war advocate Ron Paul. Former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman in third place.

Romney told supporters that the state had “made history.” Romney would be the first non-incumbent Republican to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since the 1970s, when the two states became home to the first contests of each presidential nominating season.

Romney also took aim at President Barack Obama, calling him a “failed president.” He criticized Mr. Obama's approach to a range of policy issues, including saying he has adopted an “appeasement strategy” internationally.

Many political analysts predicted Romney would win New Hampshire. But the battle for second and third place also is important, as it could help determine whether other candidates stay in the race for the Republican nominaton.

In an interview with CNN, Huntsman said his campaign is in a “strong, confident position” and he vowed to continue on to the South Carolina primary on January 21.

Voting in New Hampshire got under way Tuesday just after 12 a.m. local time in Dixville Notch, near the Canadian border. Romney – who has held a large lead in public opinion polls – won two of the town's nine possible votes, tying him with Huntsman. Voters headed to gymnasiums, town halls and even churches to cast their votes.

Romney drew criticism from some of his Republican rivals after a speech Monday in which he said “I like being able to fire people.” The statement was directed at health insurance companies that fail to provide good service, and Romney said it was taken out of context.

Romney's rivals also have been hammering him on his previous career running a private investment firm . They allege the firm laid off hundreds of employees in an effort to boost already large profits.

Some pundits say Romney's national candidacy could suffer if he does not defeat the other candidates by a wide enough margin.

Ex-U.S. senator Rick Santorum, who lost to Romney by only eight votes last week in the Iowa caucuses, hopes to also have a strong showing in New Hampshire.

The other major contenders for the Republican nomination include ex-congressman Newt Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

All the candidates have been seeking to highlight their conservative credentials against the more liberal President Obama, a Democrat. Mr. Obama faces no major challengers in his party's primary vote Tuesday.