US & Canada

Romney heads to South Carolina after New Hampshire win

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Media captionMitt Romney: "We will make 2012 the year Obama runs out of time"

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is heading to the US south buoyed by a strong victory in the New Hampshire primary.

Mr Romney won nearly 40% of Tuesday's vote in the Granite State, well clear of his nearest rival Ron Paul, on 23%.

He admitted he faces a stern test in South Carolina, where the next primary will be held on 21 January.

South Carolina, a staunchly Republican state, has a history of backing the eventual nominee in its primary.

Primaries and caucuses will be held in every US state over the next few months to vote on a Republican candidate before the eventual winner is crowned at the party convention in August.

'Bit of a boost'

Mr Romney, who hails from the US north and was formerly governor of Massachusetts, has consistently struggled to make an impact in the south.

Speaking on US TV on Wednesday he said he faced an "uphill battle" in South Carolina, but said his two wins so far - in Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary - had given him a "bit of a boost".

His campaign announced on Wednesday that it had raised $24m (£16m) in the last quarter of 2011.

A fundraising committee that supports Mr Romney, Restore our Future, has bought $2.3m in television advertising in South Carolina and $3.6m in Florida, the next primary state.

Jesse Benton, Mr Paul's national campaign chairman, said his candidate's second-place finish in New Hampshire meant the rest of the candidates should drop out and support the Texas congressman, in an attempt to block Mr Romney from gaining the nomination.

Third-placed Jon Huntsman said his showing in New Hampshire gave him a "ticket to ride" to South Carolina, but he has little presence in the Palmetto State.

Mr Huntsman, who was President Obama's first ambassador to China, had pinned his hopes on an upset in New Hampshire.

'Serious mistake'

The primary campaign is expected to get dirty ahead of the South Carolina vote, where a win for Mr Romney would further strengthen his campaign.

On Wednesday, Newt Gingrich's campaign released a television ad portraying Mr Romney as constantly having switching his views on abortion.

That followed criticism of Mr Romney's corporate record - both by Mr Gingrich and by a $3.4m ad campaign launched in South Carolina by a fundraising committee backing the former speaker.

The campaign is underpinned by a 27-minute film, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, that portrays Mr Romney as a greedy corporate raider whose hyper-capitalist business practices ruined American lives.

New Hampshire primary result

Source: AP


See the latest delegate count

Photo: Romney Romney

39.3%

Photo: Paul Paul

22.9%

Photo: Huntsman Huntsman

16.9%

Photo: Gingrich Gingrich

9.4%

Photo: Santorum Santorum

9.4%

Photo: Perry Perry

0.7%

301 of 301 precincts reporting

Speaking to cable network MSNBC on Wednesday morning, Mr Romney expressed surprise at how his Republican rivals had ended the New Hampshire campaign attacking him for his private sector record as a venture capitalist.

"We expected President Obama to put free enterprise on trial. We were a little surprised to see it coming from Speaker [Newt] Gingrich," he said.

Texas Governor Rick Perry skipped New Hampshire to concentrate on campaigning in South Carolina, but he backed the line of attack, calling Mr Romney a "vulture capitalist".

Second-placed Ron Paul said he felt his rivals made a "serious mistake" in taking on Mr Romney in those terms - using language more often heard by Democratic politicians.

"I'm a critic of Governor Romney but I just wonder whether they are totally ignorant of economics or whether they are desperate to get a vote," he told MSNBC.

Mr Paul's younger following admires his small-government message, but his calls for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and legalising drugs have put him outside the mainstream of his party.

Ron Paul told cheering supporters on Tuesday: "I sort of have to chuckle when they describe you and me as dangerous. They're telling the truth because we are dangerous - to the status quo."

President Obama is seeking re-election amid voter concern at the pace of economic recovery from the recession that started in 2007 during the White House tenure of George W Bush and ended in 2009.