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N.H. Voters Pick The Man They Think Can Beat Obama02:41


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney goes to South Carolina Wednesday, where he can expect to face a more difficult fight than he faced in New Hampshire. Romney won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night, taking 39 percent of the vote and finishing well ahead of his second-place rival, Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Listen to Mont Vernon voters Eric Pavlovich and Dave Carroll on why they voted for Romney:


We need an electable candidate. I don't think he's absolutely the best on the ballot, but we gotta get this joker out of office.


I think he's the best person to beat Obama.

The belief among Republican and independent voters that Romney is their best hope for replacing the president propelled Romney to victory in New Hampshire.

"Thank you New Hampshire. Tonight we made history," said a beaming Romney as he thanked supporters from around the country who had flown to Manchester to celebrate his making history. No Republican in a contested race for the nomination had ever won Iowa and New Hampshire back-to-back until Romney. Still, he recognized that the final hours before the votes were cast were bitter ones.

"President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial, and in the last few days we've seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him," he said.

On the eve of the primary, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman had pounced on Romney after he said he likes to be able to fire people. Romney made the comments in the context of choosing health insurers. And in South Carolina, a Super PAC supporting former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is unleashing commercials highlighting the people who have lost their jobs in companies Romney once took over.

Romney's one-time rival and now supporter, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, acknowledges that South Carolina will be hard.

"South Carolina, of course, is still going to be a bigger challenge. It's a harder state for a variety of reasons," Pawlenty said.

Still, Romney now leads in South Carolina. His senior New Hampshire adviser, Jim Merrill, thinks there is a lesson to be drawn in New Hampshire about how Romney can unite Republicans and independents behind him.

"It's an impressive show of force for the governor to win Keene, which is an independent hotbed. It votes much more liberally. The city of Concord we won. I think that shows the broad depth of his support throughout the electorate," Merrill said.

Romney gets to test how broad his support is in South Carolina now. History is favorable to his prospects: no Republican candidate has ever won the nomination without coming in first or second in New Hampshire.


This program aired on January 11, 2012.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.


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