Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney celebrates his New Hampshire… (Associated Press / Charles…)
Reporting from Hooksett, N.H. — The only suspense at Mitt Romney’s headquarters on primary night was just how big his margin of victory in New Hampshire would be.
The polls hadn’t even closed when the former Massachusetts governor’s team began lining up the youthful supporters who would serve as the candidate’s backdrop waving blue-and-white Romney signs in a crowded ballroom at Southern New Hampshire University.
At the stroke of 8, the crowd erupted into cheers as the anchors at Fox News called the primary for Romney. With a warmup from Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” the candidate -- who lost to John McCain here four years ago -- was on stage in less than 30 minutes flanked by his five sons and wife, Ann, who introduced him after acknowledging their star-studded New Hampshire team from former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu to New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
“Thank you New Hampshire, tonight we made history!” Romney said as he took the stage with a teleprompter on either side. “Tonight we celebrate; tomorrow we go back to work and take our message to South Carolina.”
Romney’s focus, as always, was on President Obama -- describing his record as a string of broken promises.
“The president has run out of ideas, now he is running out of excuses,” Romney said to whoops and cheers from the crowd, which was a mix of financial backers, longtime friends and college students who had aided the campaign. “Tonight, we are asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year he runs out of time.”
As Romney heads to the Palmetto State, where the allies of rival Newt Gingrich are preparing to pour several million dollars into an independent campaign portraying him as a corporate raider who eliminated jobs, Romney offered a note of caution to opponents seeking to tear him down, arguing that they are aiding Obama’s efforts to “put free enterprise on trial.”
“In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him,” the candidate said. “This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation. This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision.”
“I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.”
“We’re with you!” a supporter shouted.
Romney and his family did not linger -- they headed home to pack their bags for South Carolina and Florida -- and his backers soon followed. But his advisors were swarmed by reporters posing questions about whether the nomination now seemed inevitable.
“This is so much more fun than last time,” a man said to Romney advisor Ben Ginsberg as he passed him on the way out.
"Yes it is," Ginsberg replied.