South Carolina Primary

January 11, 2012 by staff 

South Carolina PrimarySouth Carolina Primary, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney easily captured the nation’s first primary election Tuesday, while his distant rivals were already aiming at scuttling the budding Romney express before South Carolina’s Jan. 21 matchup.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney celebrates his primary win on stage with his family at Southern New Hampshire University Jan. 10 in Manchester, N.H.

“Thank you New Hampshire. Tonight we made history,” Romney told well-wishers, flanked by wife Ann, their five sons and extended family. “Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we go back to work.”

With 95% of precincts reporting, the former Massachusetts governor had 39% of the vote, followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 23% and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman with 17%.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum lagged, each with about 9%. Texas Gov. Rick Perry trailed with less than 1%.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, here greeting voters outside the Webster School polling place in Manchester, N.H., took second in the primary.

Romney’s relativly easy win here and last week’s razor thin victory over Santorum the Iowa caucuses make him a favorite in South Carolina’s primary. But a newly energized Paul and a confident Huntsman have not ceded anything yet.

Paul’s quirky, populist small-government message resonated with enough voters to blow past a surging Huntsman, who had campaigned heavily here for months, making over 170 appearances.

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman greets voters at Ward 1 polling place Jan. 10 in Manchester, N.H.

“I sort of have to chuckle when they describe you and me as being dangerous,” a jubilant Paul told supporters here. “That’s the one thing they are telling the truth. We are dangerous to the status quo of this country.”

Like Paul, an energized Huntsman said he was setting his sights on winning in South Carolina. A third -place finish here gives him “a ticket to ride,” he said.

By T.J. Kirkpatrick, Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum makes the rounds on Radio Row during the nation’s first primary on Jan. 10 in Manchester, N.H.

“As we look at the numbers now, we’re in a strong, confident position – and all eyes are going (on South Carolina) from here,” Huntsman told CNN.

Despite disappointing finishes, Santorum and Gingrich both told supporters that they would remain in the race. Both conservatives will appeal to the state’s conversative base.

Knowing he may stumble in New Hampshire, Santorum told reporters early Tuesday that he’s have chances outside New Hamphire. “There are lots of contests still to come,” Santorum said. “There’s going to be lots of opportunities to rise and fall.”

Santorum, bolstered after pulling a virtual tie with Romney in Iowa, said there wasn’t time enough to capitalize on that momentum before New Hampshire’s primary and that he would be content to pull a double-digit percentage of the votes.

Despite a relatively low unemployment rate of 5.2% – vs. the national unemployment rate of 8.5% – the economy was the top concern of New Hampshire voters, according to results of an exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the Associated Press and TV networks. Among them, 45% favored Romney.

About one third of those polled said their main criterion for picking a candidate was finding someone to defeat President Obama in the 2012 Presidential election. The survey was conducted at 40 randomly selected sites here, and the preliminary results are based on interviews with 1,774 voters. The poll has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points

Romney’s victory speech focused on Obama for lax economic policies. “The last three years have lot of change, but they haven’t offered much hope,” Romney said. “We know it must be better and it will be better. That conviction guides our campaign. Americans know that our future is brighter and better than these troubled times. The president has run out of ideas. Now he’s running out of excuses.”

Romney had spent the past two days explaining and defending an offhand comment that he liked “being able to fire people.” That comment attracted fire from Huntsman and Perry, among others, who used that quote to reinforce a withering assault on Romney as a venture capitalist in the private equity firm Bain Capital, which took over companies and sometimes laid off workers.

A former ambassador to China in the Obama administration, Huntsman spent the final 48 hours trying to capitalize on a notable debate exchange with Romney, who had criticized Huntsman for serving in Obama’s administration. Huntsman countered that he had put his country ahead of partisan politics.

Perry had also criticized Romney over his role at Bain Capital, calling him a “vulture capitalist.” But the anti-Romney sentiment didn’t sway enough Granite State voters.

Shannon Taber, 37, a bartender, voted for Romney because she said she’s looking for “basically someone who can beat Obama.”

She said she likes Romney’s experience and the fact that polls show he’s got support. As a Republican, she feels “it’s time to band together and pick someone.”

Kevin Langelier, 42, an unemployed accountant, said he liked Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.”He’s got a successful career as a businessman and I think he can do a lot for the economy,” Langelier said. “I think he can beat Obama. I don’t think anyone else is electable.”

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