ROCHESTER, N.H. – Mitt Romney captured the nation's first primary election Tuesday, withstanding both stepped-up attacks by his Republican opponents and late slippage among voters.
With 23% of precincts reporting, the former Massachusetts governor had 35% of the vote, followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 25% and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman with 17%. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum trailed with 10% each. Texas Gov. Rick Perry lagged with less than 1%.
"Thank you New Hampshire. Tonight we made history,'' Romney told well-wishers, flanked by wife Ann and the couple's sons. "Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we go back to work."
Romney is the first Republican to sweep the first two contests in a competitive race since Iowa gained the lead-off spot in presidential campaigns in 1976. He had finished second here in 2008 to eventual GOP presidential candidate John McCain. This time, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist campaigned with the Arizona senator's endorsement, as well as backing from Sen. Kelly Ayotte and numerous other members of the state's Republican establishment. (Continues here)