CNN projection says…

CNN projects Romney wins New Hampshire primary

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:33 PM EST, Tue January 10, 2012

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Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) — Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary, according to CNN projections, after voters turned out in expected record numbers Tuesday in the second contest of the Republican presidential race.

Based on early results and exit poll data, CNN also projected that Texas Rep. Ron Paul will finish in second place and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman will finish third. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum battled for fourth place, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the back of the pack.

Exit polls indicated Romney would get about 36% of the vote, with Paul receiving 23% and Huntsman 18%. Gingrich and Santorum came in with 10% and Perry with 1%, according to the exit polls.

With Romney’s victory expected, based on polling in recent weeks, the battle for second place and beyond became the focal point of the first-in-the-nation primary with implications for the next contest in South Carolina on January 21.

Despite the strong showing by Romney, who won nearly every group of voters after his narrow victory last week in the Iowa caucuses, all the other contenders made clear they would continue their campaigns in South Carolina.

A triumphant Romney told exuberant supporters they made history with a second straight victory.

“Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we go back to work,” Romney said, immediately assuming the posture of the Republican nominee who will face President Barack Obama in the November election.

Calling Obama “a failed president,” Romney said he was asking “the good people of South Carolina to join the good citizens of New Hampshire to make 2012 the year he (Obama) runs out of time.”

The crowd interrupted Romney with chants of his first name as he outlined a campaign strategy that portrayed Obama as a European-leaning big government advocate while defining his candidacy as a return to American ideals.

“This president puts his faith in government. We put our faith in the American people,” Romney said to cheers.

Paul told CNN that he expected to raise more money after a second-place finish, and he then told cheering supporters that their campaign for freedom in America would continue to grow.

Referring to Romney, Paul said “he certainly had a clear-cut victory, but we’re nibbling at his heels,” giving a chuckle as the crowd chanted “President Paul.”

In response to criticism by rivals that his calls for scrapping the Federal Reserve and bringing home American forces from around the world were dangerous, Paul declared: “We are dangerous, to the status quo.”

Huntsman told his supporters “I think we’re in the hunt,” adding “Hello, South Carolina” to emphasize his third-place finish would keep him in the race.

Gingrich and Santorum also said they would would head to South Carolina and emphasized how their policies and positions differ from both Romney and Obama.

, despite on Tuesday night to being campaigning there, and Perry already was in the Palmetto State in what amounted to a concession of New Hampshire.

“Tonight’s results in New Hampshire show the race for ‘conservative alternative’ to Mitt Romney remains wide open,” Perry said in a statement. “… I believe being the only non-establishment outsider in the race, the proven fiscal and social conservative and proven job creator will win the day in South Carolina.”

A record 250,000 voters were expected to turn out for the GOP primary on an unseasonably warm winter day, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan told CNN. With no competitive challenger to President Barack Obama on the Democratic side, more “undeclared” voters could weigh in on the Republican race, he said.

“We’re hearing that the turnout is steady,” Scanlan said. “There aren’t lines that are backing up, but people are just constantly moving through the polling places. It’s certainly what we would expect during a presidential primary.”

Follow developments on the CNN Political Ticker’s live blog

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, earlier told Boston radio station WRKO that winning New Hampshire after Iowa would make history of a sort.

“It will be the first time I think anyone who is not an incumbent in our party would have won Iowa and New Hampshire,” Romney said.

Early exit poll data showed that nearly seven out of 10 Republican voters in the state were very worried about the economy and their personal financial situation.

One in four said the deficit was the most important issue. Also, more than three-quarters of respondents said the series of Republican debates was important to their final decision, while less than half said television ads were important.

The first votes were cast just after midnight in the tiny communities of Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location. In Dixville Notch, Romney and Huntsman, the former Utah governor and ambassador to China, led with with two votes each, while Romney edged Paul 5 to 4 in Hart’s Location.

Paul and Gingrich won one vote each in Dixville Notch. Huntsman placed third with two votes in Hart’s Location, while Gingrich and Perry got one vote each.

Obama received all the votes in the Democratic primary in both locations.

Huntsman, who skipped last week’s Iowa caucuses to campaign heavily in New Hampshire, told CNN his showing in Dixville Notch was “a harbinger of things to come.”

One of New Hampshire’s more than 300,000 “undeclared” or independent voter, Linda Underhill, told CNN on Tuesday that she decided to support Huntsman.

After initially backing Romney, Underhill shifted to Huntsman, calling him smart and likely to take a bipartisan approach.

“In the past few days, I watched him very closely,” Underhill said. “I just feel he is more genuine.”

Meanwhile, Gingrich argued that a Romney showing in the 30% range, as the most recent polling suggested, could hurt the front-runner even if he wins Tuesday’s contest.

“If he can’t come close to 50% here, it’s very unlikely he can sweep the nomination,” Gingrich told reporters in Bedford. “And I think that gives the party time to take a deep breath, look at his record and begin to realize that maybe this isn’t the right guy to run against Obama.”

Gingrich has been pounding at Romney since Iowa, complaining about a massive negative ad campaign against him by allies of the former Massachusetts governor. A Gingrich-allied super PAC has already launched its own anti-Romney barrage in South Carolina. And Gingrich and others have honed in on Romney’s years as a financier with Bain Capital, accusing him of getting rich by gutting companies and laying off workers.

Romney will have to answer questions about that in conservative South Carolina, Gingrich told CNN on Tuesday, acknowledging that the Palmetto State will be a key contest for his own presidential hopes.

“We’re going to go all out to win South Carolina. We think that’s a key state for us,” Gingrich said, describing the race there as a contrast between himself — a “Georgia Reagan conservative” — and Romney, “a Massachusetts moderate.”

Asked about the negative ads from the Gingrich camp, Romney told WRKO on Tuesday that they “will not help” his rival.

“All I have got to do is keep my head down, keep talking about my message of getting America back to work, my experience in having led two businesses successfully, the Olympics successfully,” Romney said.

Gingrich wasn’t alone in attacking Romney’s business record. In South Carolina, Perry told supporters Romney’s firm “looted” a photo company in Gaffney and a steel company in Georgetown.

“I would suggest they are just vultures,” Perry said. “They are vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick, then they swoop in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that and they leave the skeleton.”

Romney got a mere eight more votes than Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, while Paul finished a strong third. The libertarian doctor and Congress member has touted his plan to downsize government and chided the frontrunners for being unwilling to push for the kind of overhaul he believes Washington needs.

Santorum, meanwhile, saw his New Hampshire poll numbers surge from single digits to the low double digits after his near-win in Iowa. However, was downplaying expectations for Tuesday night.

“We haven’t spent a penny on broadcast television here in New Hampshire. We’ve only spent five days campaigning here in the last month. We just came here starting at two or three points pretty much tied with Rick Perry in New Hampshire. We’ve been working hard and now into the double digits. Hopefully we can finish well,” Santorum said.

Romney tops most national polling and is ahead in the latest surveys in South Carolina and Florida, the next two states to hold contests following New Hampshire. But he took new criticism Monday after a speech to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce, when he said he wanted Americans who were unhappy with their health care coverage to be able to switch insurance companies.

“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,” he said. “You know, if someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say, ‘You know, I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.’ ”

The first seven words of that sentence — “I like being able to fire people,” dangled like low-hanging fruit, and some of Romney’s rivals pounced.

“Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs,” Huntsman said at a campaign stop in Concord on Monday.

Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho said opponents are taking Romney’s remarks out of context — a point on which Gingrich and Paul defended him Tuesday. But the attacks have fed the image of Romney that his GOP opponents and Democrats have pushed: That he’s a wealthy businessman who can’t connect to average Americans.

“The language was a little bit clumsy and open to misinterpretation and that might raise some questions about whether or not he’s the right person to debate Barack Obama, which I think is an essential characteristic for this fall, but nonetheless, I thought it was unfair to suggest that he actually liked firing people,” Gingrich said.

Rumor has it…

Iowa GOP officials don’t think Appanoose County will rewrite caucus history

JENNIFER JACOBS, 10:40 PM, Jan 5, 2012, Des Moines Register

An Appanoose County man told an Iowa TV station today that he thinks there was a 20-vote discrepancy in the count in the town of Moulton – which could tilt the tight Iowa caucuses victory in Rick Santorum’s favor.

But Republican Party of Iowa officials said tonight that they have talked with Appanoose County GOP officials and don’t have any reason to believe the final results in the county will change the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.

Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses by the thinnest of margins: 8 votes, out of about 120,000 votes cast.

Edward True, 28, of Moulton, told KCCI that the GOP’s results showed 22 votes for Romney when he thinks it was only 2. True said he and 52 other people caucused at the Garrett Memorial Library.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn in a statement tonight said:

“Iowa GOP rules provide for a two-week certification process for each of the 1,774 precincts. The Iowa GOP will announce the final, certified results of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses following this process.

“Out of respect to the candidates involved, party officials will not respond to every rumor, innuendo or allegation during the two week process.

That said, Iowa GOP officials have been in contact with Appanoose County Republican officials tonight and do not have any reason to believe the final, certified results of Appanoose County will change the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.”

Romney wins Iowa by 8 votes…

Preston: Short sprint or long haul to GOP nomination?

By Mark Preston, CNN Political Director
updated 5:27 AM EST, Wed January 4, 2012

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(CNN) — With a narrow loss, Rick Santorum scored a stunning victory and now heads to New Hampshire, hoping this momentum sets him up as the anti-Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Santorum, who lost to Romney by eight votes in the Iowa caucuses early Wednesday, is following a well-worn path on his march as the new political battleground shifts from this Midwestern state to New Hampshire.

It is an uphill battle for Santorum, who faces a better-funded rival in Romney and questions about his own viability as a general election candidate.

Meanwhile, one-time leading contender Newt Gingrich is hoping to breathe new life into his campaign with a sharper message in a new state. Rick Perry, who came in a disappointing fifth in the caucuses, said he was heading back to Texas to “reassess” his campaign, a statement that all but seems to close the book on his presidential bid that took off like a rocket in August only to fall out of the sky in the ensuing months.

Perhaps, the second biggest surprise of the night — nothing can match the razor-thin margin that Romney won by — was Michele Bachmann’s refusal to bow out of the race even though she came in a disappointing sixth place.

She is scheduled to appear in South Carolina on Wednesday — hoping to open up a second front in the battle for the Republican nomination. For Bachmann, New Hampshire is not an option to restart her campaign, as her fate rests with the influential evangelical/born-again voters in South Carolina — the same group that failed to rally behind her in Iowa.

Even though Ron Paul came in third, he should get credit for building a strong ground game. Paul has proven he is an effective campaigner with a loyal following. He is not going anywhere, anytime soon.

Romney is heavily favored to win the New Hampshire primary and it should come as no surprise that he will take time this week to campaign in South Carolina — a political strike to try and suppress any momentum that might be building for Santorum or support for Gingrich.

Santorum will press hard for South Carolina’s evangelical/born again voters on January 11, but he is not willing to cede this valuable opportunity to draw a spotlight onto his campaign. A wealthy candidate, such as Romney, has the ability to pick and choose what states to play in. Santorum is no Romney when it comes to money, staff and resources.

“We are not just going to compete where we think we can win,” said John Brabender, Santorum’s senior strategist. “We think we are the best alternative to Mitt Romney and we are willing to go right into his backyard.”

The race for the 2012 GOP nomination, which has largely been an exercise in retail politics over the past few weeks, takes on the added dimension of a national campaign — which largely defined the race for most of the year. This weekend, the candidates will appear in two nationally televised debates — a setting that befits Newt Gingrich, who came in 4th place last night. Gingrich’s steady performance in the dozen-plus presidential debates helped fuel his rise in the polls in December only to come quickly crashing down under the barrage of negative advertising.

“This weekend’s debates are a big deal,” said David Winston, a veteran Republican strategist who is advising Gingrich. “This will be the first time the candidates will have been together since early December.”

Winston said he had never seen such a massive amount of negative television advertising directed at a presidential candidate as what Gingrich has endured over the past month.

“If you are trying to change the general narrative, this is where the folks are going to be,” Winston said of New Hampshire.

After New Hampshire, the next stop in the battle for the GOP nomination is January 21 in South Carolina, followed by Florida on January 31.

While Romney is likely to win New Hampshire, a big, strong showing by Santorum or Gingrich will determine whether this race comes to a quick close on Super Tuesday or continues on into the spring.

And then there is Jon Huntsman, is there any chance he will be able to soak up some of the spotlight that will now shine brightly on New Hampshire.

Bachmann Yes, Romney No, Pawlenty Not So Sure

Pawlenty, Bachmann, Romney and the Iowa marriage pledge

By , Published: July 12 THE WASHINGTON POST

Last week, the Family Leader, a conservative pro-family group in Iowa, asked Republican presidential candidates to sign a pledge endorsing traditional marriage and other social issues. Michele Bachmann was the first to say she would sign it. Mitt Romney has decided not to. Tim Pawlenty hasn’t announced his decision.

That tells you something important about the battle for the Republican presidential nomination and the box in which Pawlenty now finds himself. Two months ago, he believed he was in a strong position to break out and become the principal alternative to front-runner Romney. Today he is trying to figure out how to prevent Bachmann from blocking his path.

The decisions on the marriage pledge by Romney and Bachmann were easy because they know their respective constituencies, their strategies and the political imperatives that go with them. Pawlenty’s apparent hesitation underscores the awkward position he’s in and the risks to his candidacy whether he signs or doesn’t.

Bachmann intends to nail down social conservatives and tea party activists and turn them into a force that can propel her to victory in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Success there could enhance her chances of competing elsewhere. Signing the detailed though controversial pledge was an easy decision as a result.

The calculus for Romney was the opposite, but not necessarily more difficult. Neither winning Iowa nor becoming the favored candidate of social and religious conservatives is part of his strategy for capturing the nomination or the presidency. He wants support from those values voters, but, as with others who have won the GOP nomination, he is not willing to pay any price to get it.

Romney has signed other pledges — one not to raise taxes and another to put a cap on spending and support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Romney is all about the economy. But on social issues, he is not willing to lurch too far to the right. He is focused on preserving as much space as possible in which to compete for swing voters in a general election.

Asked about Romney’s position on the pledge, spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom e-mailed back this response: “Mitt Romney strongly supports traditional marriage but he felt this pledge contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign.”

Romney’s campaign did not identify the provisions or the footnotes Fehrnstrom cited, but others have raised a number of questions about the document. One provision, which was later dropped, said that, in some respects, black children born into slavery were better off than those born today. Another asked candidates to reject sharia law. Another called for recognition that “robust childbearing and reproduction” is good for the nation.

Family Leader officials are now trying to rebut criticism of their pledge.

That Pawlenty’s campaign is struggling is borne out by recent polls in Iowa (where he is in single digits), by second-quarter fundraising numbers (he raised less than a quarter of Romney’s total) and by the negative narrative that has now attached itself to the former Minnesota governor’s candidacy.

There is perhaps no better sign of how he regards Bachmann’s strength in Iowa than the escalation of his rhetoric over the past week. He first called on Iowa Republicans to think twice about their vote. Being first in the nation, he told Iowans, is more than a privilege, it is a responsibility to take their votes seriously.

“I think it’s important for Iowa not to just be first but to be right, to send a message that the person who wins Iowa is a person who can really be the nominee, who can really beat Barack Obama, who can really be the president of the United States under the most historically difficult and challenging times,” he told an audience in Cedar Rapids last week.

He also derided candidates who just “flap their jaws” rather than get things done.

At that point, Pawlenty still wasn’t singling out Bachmann by name, although the implication was obvious. By Sunday, when he appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he was no longer so restrained. Asked by host David Gregory about Bachmann, Pawlenty offered a biting critique.

“I like congresswoman Bachmann,” he said. “I’ve campaigned for her. I respect her. But her record of accomplishment in Congress is nonexistent. It’s nonexistent. And so we’re not looking for folks who, you know, just have speech capabilities, we’re looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion. I’ve done that. She hasn’t.”

Pawlenty is actively working to play down expectations for his performance in the August straw poll in Ames, Iowa, which not long ago he would have been favored to win because Romney is not competing.

In an interview with The Post last week, Pawlenty pointed to a recent survey in the Des Moines Register, which showed Romney and Bachmann topping the field. Pawlenty ran a poor sixth. He said he hopes to show progress by the time of the straw poll, which of course he will, given that Romney and some others are not on the ballot. At this point, Ames is largely a two-person battle between Pawlenty and Bachmann, although Ron Paul could be a factor as well.

Defeat in Ames would be another setback for the former governor, who will need a caucus victory in Iowa next year if he hopes to win the nomination. Pawlenty says that a loss in the straw poll would not be enough to knock him out of the race. His team is confident that, whatever the relative standing of the candidates today, he has more staying power than Bachmann.

Republican strategists partial to Pawlenty believe that Bachmann, given her record and history, could stumble in the months ahead. They hope to profit from any mistakes by the Minnesota congresswoman.

Bachmann fired back at criticism that she lacks executive experience, saying that’s no substitute for supporting the right policies. For the most part, however, she prefers to ignore Pawlenty’s barbs. She is counting on her grass-roots supporters to make a statement for her.

When she opened her Iowa headquarters in suburban Des Moines on a hot afternoon last Saturday, she issued a spirited call for everyone to mobilize for Ames. “How many of you can fill up a car, a bus, a wagon, a train, a sleigh?” she said. “Get your skis on. Get your roller skates on. Get your ice skates on, but get to the straw poll in Ames, Iowa.”

All of which makes Pawlenty’s handling of the Family Leader pledge so telling. His decision will not just show how worried Pawlenty is about the Bachmann threat. It will also will reveal how he sees himself and what kind of candidate he wants to be.