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Romney Celebrates Double-Digit N.H. Victory


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene.

Mitt Romney's double-digit win in New Hampshire plants his feet happily on the path to the Republican nomination heading, now, into South Carolina.

INSKEEP: The results last night were very different from Romney's victory in Iowa, the kind of win that leaves lingering concerns, since he won by just eight votes. Last night, in his home territory of New England, he won by thousands. Nobody came within 15 percentage points of Mitt Romney.

GREENE: NPR's Ari Shapiro was at Romney headquarters in Manchester last night. He reports on a campaign that spent years laying the groundwork for this win.


Until the actual voting started, this nominating race was one of the most chaotic in recent memory. As Dan Yarrington put it, just after casting his vote for Ron Paul…

DAN YARRINGTON: All these other candidates are like angry birds, as I describe them. They just go up and then down, and up and down.

SHAPIRO: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum each had a moment in the sun. Yet the strange thing is, after all those angry birds flying and crashing, the actual voting results were more definitive and consistent than they have ever been.

As Romney put it in his victory speech...


MITT ROMNEY: Tonight we made history.


SHAPIRO: Mitt Romney is the first non-incumbent Republican ever to have won both Iowa and New Hampshire. He was helped to victory by people like Deb Sklar, who cast her vote yesterday in Bedford.

DEB SKLAR: I'm an independent, but I voted for him because I think he's moderate. Because I think his positions are thought out.

SHAPIRO: Half of the votes in New Hampshire's primary yesterday came from people describing themselves as independent. That means only half came from Republicans. Mitt Romney has always done well with moderate voters.

He was also helped along by voters' familiarity with him here. Jerry Belmosto, of Hookset, came to Romney's election night victory party at Southern New Hampshire University.

JERRY BELMOSTO: He almost does seem like a neighbor. And it'd be nice to have a neighbor in the White House.

SHAPIRO: As Romney reminded people last night, his family has been coming to New Hampshire for decades.

ROMNEY: Ann and I made a home here. We've filled it with great memories of our children, our grandchildren. The Granite State moment we've just enjoyed is one we will always remember. And I have...

SHAPIRO: The Romney campaign worked hard to cultivate an air of inevitability that their candidate will be the presidential nominee. These results in New Hampshire go a long way toward securing that outcome, particularly since Romney had been stuck at around 25 percent in polls for the last year. And last night he broke through that ceiling by double digits.

In the last few days, other Republicans tried hard to tear Romney down. They accused him of making a fortune by laying off American workers during his years running the investment firm Bain Capital. Those efforts to undermine him were ultimately unsuccessful here, and Romney scolded his rivals for trying, calling them desperate Republicans who joined forces with President Obama.

ROMNEY: This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation. The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We have to offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we're lifted up by a desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.

SHAPIRO: Romney's speeches have always focused primarily on President Obama, but last night the attacks were even more pointed.


ROMNEY: This president takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe. We look to the cities and towns across America for our inspiration.


ROMNEY: This president puts his faith in government. We put our faith in the American people.


SHAPIRO: The list went on and on, interrupted several times by jubilant chants of Mitt.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt...

SHAPIRO: The contest now moves to South Carolina. Romney's message to voters there last night was: It's time to fall in line behind the man who will oust President Obama.

ROMNEY: Tonight we're asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year he runs out of time.


SHAPIRO: The campaign has built the infrastructure and raised the money to go the distance through one primary state after another, if that's what it takes. In an email to supporters last night, Romney said: I've long said this election will be a marathon, not a sprint.

But Mitt Romney was leading in South Carolina polls even before he won New Hampshire. And the campaign would just as soon save its resources for the general election fight that's just a few months off.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Manchester. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.