CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Mitt Romney cruised to victory in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night, improving on his first-place finish in last week’s Iowa caucuses and firmly establishing himself as the man to beat for the Republican presidential nomination.
“Tonight we made history,” Romney told cheering supporters before pivoting to a stinging denunciation of President Barack Obama. “The middle class has been crushed,” he said, “our debt is too high and our opportunities too few” — remarks that made clear he intends to be viewed as the nominee in waiting after only two contests.
His rivals said otherwise, looking ahead to South Carolina on Jan. 21 as their best chance to stop the former Massachusetts governor.
Even so, the order of finish — Ron Paul second, followed by Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum — scrambled the field and prolonging the other contenders’ increasingly desperate competition to emerge as the true conservative rival to Romney.