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Romney takes New Hampshire

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney moved a step closer to clinching the Republican presidential ticket Tuesday night winning the New Hampshire primary handsomely.

world Updated: Jan 12, 2012 02:12 IST

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney moved a step closer to clinching the Republican presidential ticket Tuesday night winning the New Hampshire primary handsomely.

Texas representative Ron Paul continued his libertarian surge, coming second, followed by former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who finally got a number bump coming in third.

"The president has run out of ideas," said Romney in a victory speech, "and now he is running out of excuses." The president, he added later, is also running out of time.

Romney kept his focus on Obama consistently -- to show himself ahead and above the rest of the pack -- stooping to join the cat-fight only when attacked. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/12-01-12-metro18b.jpg

The Republican race now moves to South Carolina, which has the reputation of "choosing the eventual presidential candidate" unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, which winnow the line-up.

Romney has a head-start in South Carolina having already bagged the endorsement of governor Nikki Haley, who is of Indian origin. But the state is considered up for grabs.

The South Carolina primary is on January 21.

Tuesday night, however was about New Hampshire, a state where independents can and do vote in Republican and Democratic primaries. Romney came to New Hampshire after a surprise win in Iowa, a socially conservative state he had not seen himself winning and had thus left it for some last minute campaigning.

New Hampshire being a part-time home state for him -- he has a vacation home there -- he was expected to win, and he had saved the best and most for it.

But he did have some anxious moments. Iowa had ended badly for Gingrich, who decided he had been done in by negative ads put out by Romney and Paul campaigns, and supporters.

He came swinging, with the rest of the pack in an equally unforgiving mood. Romney was their common target: questions were raised about his private sector stint, which he flaunts.

Texas governor Rick Perry called Romney a "vulture capitalist". Gingrich and Huntsman went after his record at Bain Capital, a private equity fund Romney founded and eld for five years.

Some conservative commentators recoiled at the attack: how could Republicans attack another Republican for simply following the haloed rules of free market capitalism.

New Hampshire, in the end, decided to go with Romney. And with Paul and Huntsman, who is every moderate conservative's favourite candidate, but has found little support from voters.

So far, that is. Coming in third has been Huntsman's best performance yet. "The third place, ladies and gentlemen," he told cheering supporters, "is a ticket to ride."

Perry, however, is struggling to survive. He had nearly pulled out after Iowa, finishing fifth. He had then announced he wanted to reassess his candidacy. And stayed.

He finished last in New Hampshire. But he said in an interview to CNN South Carolina is going to be a make-or-break primary for some campaigns.

Rick Santorum finished fifth, behind Gingrich.