TPM News

MANCHESTER, NH -- Mitt Romney dominated the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday as networks called his victory almost immediately after the polls closed.

"Tonight we made history!" he said to the cheering crowd at his victory party in Manchester.

In a lucky break for Romney, Ron Paul was quickly called as a distant second, ensuring that none of the candidates who the Romney camp is most concerned about -- mainly Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- will leave the state with strong momentum. Despite a late boost in the polls, Huntsman appeared poised to take third place, a disappointing and almost certainly fatal result for a candidate who staked his entire campaign on a strong showing in the state. Nonetheless, he told his supporters he wasn't giving up yet.

"I say third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen," he said. "Hello South Carolina!"

For Romney, the vote couldn't have come soon enough. In the final days of the race his rivals, especially Gingrich, unloaded a wave of brutal attacks targeting Bain Capital's history of downsizing workers. With a helping hand from Democrats, the story dominated local and national news coverage by Tuesday, drawing a panicked response from conservative commentators who fear that Romney's rivals are reinforcing Obama's general election talking points.

Romney tackled the issue head on in his victory speech, accusing the other candidates of threatening the GOP's ultimate goal of retaking the White House.

"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."

He added: "We have to offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path where we're lifted up by our desire to succeed not dragged down by our resentment of success."

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Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), a tea-partier extraordinaire who’s been careful not to give out any presidential endorsement in this primary, has told talk show host Mark Levin that he thinks Mitt Romney is going to pull off a win in South Carolina.

He declined to make that into an endorsement, telling the host that he would “let South Carolinians decide for themselves who they want to nominate.”

However, he noted that Perry “doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of traction” in the state despite recently going all-out there. He also suggested “other” Republicans will have done themselves no favors by having “criticized free enterprise concepts.”

You can listen to the interview here.

MANCHESTER, NH -- Which candidate has the most offices in New Hampshire? No, it's not Mitt Romney. That would be President Obama, whose campaign has seven spread out across the state -- more than the rest of the field combined. Romney has one central office in Manchester, for the record.

It's not exactly the most competitive primary in the world, but Obama is on the ballot in New Hampshire today too on the Democratic side and his campaign has its own lineup of volunteer events and celebrations planned in the Granite State. I stopped by their Manchester office on Tuesday to find a small cadre of Democrats hitting the phones to remind voters to turn out to vote.

"While [the Republicans] are getting the attention, behind the scenes we're building up our organization," Obama spokesman Frank Benenati told TPM.

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Rick Perry spoke on Fox News following the New Hampshire vote. Anchor Sean Hannity went after him for his recent rhetoric against Romney’s time at Bain Capital, saying it sounded more “like something from Occupy Wall Street” than from the governor of Texas.

“There’s a difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism,” Perry replied, refining a line he’d used earlier on the trail.

Rick Santorum who is in a close race with Newt Gingrich for distant fourth place in the New Hampshire primary, addressed his supporters Tuesday night.

He took some credit in the fact that although his support was at about 10% in the primary, it had been a mere fraction of that before his big result in Iowa last week. “We have, depending on your math, either ten times, five times, or three times” where they had started, Santorum said.

“We are gonna go on to South Carolina,” said Santorum. “To those who would like to think that somehow or another that this race can be over in one or two states, states that have been well let’s say the backyard and the home of a certain candidate — and by the way i want to absolutely congratulate Mitt Romney for his victory tonight.”

But Santorum told his supporters that they had an opportunity in the race to present a “true conservative,” who could win the race, and who “understands that at the foundation of our country are institutions that are crucial for us to be a successful country,” such as the institution of the family.

Speaking after the vote in NH, Newt Gingrich vowed to continue to South Carolina, saying he was “going to offer the American people something very different.” He meant a new platform of ideas, but what he’ll be unleashing in the next few days will also be an enormous ad buy targeted against Mitt Romney.

Gingrich said one reason he was running was because of the opportunity to unify the country. He touted how much he achieved while he was House Speaker even though the President was a Democrat, and said, “If we’d had a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Gingrich presidency it would have been amazing how much we could have got done.”

He did not at any point reference Mitt Romney by name, though he did note that “we need someone who is capable of debating Barack Obama.” In the last few days a key part of his anti-Romney barrage has been that Romney’s “moderate” background means he will not provide a convincing contrast to the President on the debate stage.

Speaking in New Hampshire after being projected to come third, Jon Huntsman said his experiences of living abroad suited him to leadership in a new era. “Afghanistan is not our nation’s future,” he told the crowd. “Iraq is not our nation’s future.”

“This is going to play out across the Pacific ocean in countries I have lived in,” he continued. And if things don’t go right, he warned, “it will be the end of the American Century by 2050.”

Addressing his supporters Tuesday night, Jon Huntsman took pride in his third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary.

“I’d say third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen!” Huntsman told the crowd. “Hello, South Carolina!”