Former governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) is the projected winner the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, just a week after pulling out an 8-vote win over former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) in Iowa. By 8:10 ET, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) was declared the projected second-place finisher.
In Romney's victory speech, he hit hard and early the themes that characterized Santorum's speech last week: the unemployed and underemployed, unemployed veterans and the increasing government debt. In the first of many jabs at the President, he added, "And this president wakes up every morning and look around across America and is proud to announce, 'It could be worse.' It could be worse?" He later added, "The president has run out of ideas. Now he's running out of excuses."
In addition to focusing more thoroughly on economic themes than he did in his Iowa speech (and comparing the President's economic policies to the "socialist" policies of Europe multiple times), Romney spent most of the speech hitting the President and his record, rather than at his fellow GOP colleagues -- for instance, he said "Tonight we're asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year [Obama] runs out of time," rather than asking for their vote against the Republican colleagues he'll be facing in South Carolina.
In the one obvious hit against his fellow Republicans, Romney did address the Gingrich documentary that's been making headlines since Sunday: "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. This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation." He called such attacks the "bitter politics of envy" and "resentment of success."
And although Romney didn't ignore foreign policy, particularly on Israel, and naturally hit on the theme of American exceptionalism that characterizes most Republican critiques of Obama's foreign policy, Romney's speech was largely silent on social issues. Those issues are likely to come much more into play in South Carolina than they did in New Hampshire or even in Iowa -- and they have historically been his stumbling block with many conservative voters, given his record and statements on abortion while governor of Massachusetts.
Paul took the stage at 9:00 ET, thanking the local newspaper for not endorsing him and declaring his second-place finish a "victory for liberty." He chided the media for ignoring his campaign and his supporters, saying, "I sort of have to chuckle when they describe you and me as being 'dangerous.' That's one thing, they are telling the truth, because we are dangerous to the status quo of this country." After the chants of "President Paul!" died down, he added, "And we will remain a danger to the Federal Reserve system."
It was, in fact, Paul's issue with the Federal Reserve that took up the majority of the first part of his speech, in which he declared this the "first presidential campaign where this has been talked about since the Federal Reserve was established" (which occurred in 1913). He declared that an "honest government" that wanted to spend more money would simply tax more; by comparison, our government first borrowed and then printed money to fund its priorities, which included being "the policemen of the world."
With that, Paul transitioned to his anti-war position, stating, "In the last 10 years the wars have been going on have added $4 trillion of debt and I don't think we have been one bit safer for it. I think we have been less safe because of all the money we have spent overseas." However, he added, "If you cut the military industrial complex you cut war profiteering, but you don't take one penny out of national defense." He then suggested getting involved in the war in Afghanistan was a boondoggle for the U.S. as it had been for Russia before America's involvement, without mentioning that he, too, had voted in favor of the war in Afghanistan.
In addition, Paul used his speech to blame economic inequality on government regulation, telling the crowd, "Our middle class is shrinking, the country is getting poorer, the wealth that is apparent is based on debt, the few who really hold the wealth, it's maldistribution [sic] because it shifts over due to the regulations that control government." He added that, "We have had too many too long in the last hundred years thinking that it was beneficial more to have high-paid lobbyists to find out what they can get from the government rather than us petitioning our government in a proper manner and petitioning our government and demanding our freedoms back again."
Santorum, who nearly pulled off an upset last week, was projected to finish only a few points ahead of Texas governor Rick Perry (R-TX), who didn't even spend today in the state. As of 8:30 ET, former Utah governor and Obama ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (R-UT) was projected to beat out former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) for third place.
Hunstman told CNN after Paul was the projected second-place finisher that there were "3 tickets out of New Hampshire" and he didn't plan to drop out before the South Carolina primary later this month. He took the stage to the strains of U2's "Beautiful Day" just after 9:30 ET, telling his supporters, "I think we're in the hunt!" and calling his third-place finish "a ticket to ride." Huntsman, like Romney and Paul before him, focused on the economy, telling the crowd, "This isn't a debt problem, this is a national security problem and we are not going to leave it to the next generation of Americans."
Like Paul, he used the economy to transition into criticism of the war: "Afghanistan is not this nation's future, and Iraq is not this nation's future. Our nation's future is how prepared we are to rise up as the American people and hit head on the competitive challenges of the 21st century." Huntsman added that the economic and educational challenges America faces will "be played out over the Pacific Ocean, in countries I have lived in before." On a more somber note, he added that, if the country fails to meet those challenges, "we will see the end of the American century by 2050."
Huntsman then called on the government to work to resolve "the trust deficit" in which Americans no longer trust their government or their elected officials, by instituting Congressional term limits, ending the revolving door between government and lobbyists, and bringing home all the troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Santorum and Gringrich, who were competing for a distant fourth place, spoke simultaneously at their events to supporters, each dismissing their poor showing and promising to continue to South Carolina.
[Ed. note: This post was updated between 8:00 and 10:00 ET as candidates spoke and results came in.]
[Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]