New Hampshire Kicks Off Republican Primary
New Hampshire kicked off its first-in-the-nation primary early Tuesday with voting in Dixville Notch, the tiny town that that traditionally casts its ballots shortly after midnight.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman tied with two votes each in the town. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Congressman Ron Paul each got one. President Obama got three votes.
The small town only has nine registered voters.The nine residents who cast their ballots include three registered Republicans and two registered Democrats. Four other voters haven't declared a party.
After a close result last week in the Iowa caucuses, there's still plenty at stake for the field of Republican presidential candidates in the Granite State.
Romney has held onto a commanding lead in the polls, though many voters have remained undecided until the last minute.
Huntsman, after skipping Iowa, is pinning his hopes on a strong finish here, while former Senator Rick Santorum is looking to capitalize on his near-tie with Romney last week. Polls also show Paul has solid support in New Hampshire.
Gingrich, though farther back in the pack after a fourth-place finish in Iowa, has increased his attacks on Romney. Texas Governor Rick Perry, meanwhile, is skipping New Hampshire and banking his struggling campaign on a surge in South Carolina and it's first-in-the-South primary.
Romney, though still the front-runner, has faced increased scrutiny on the campaign trail of his years heading the venture capital firm Bain Capital.
He opened himself to criticism Monday when he declared Monday, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me."
The comment referred to health care consumers and insurance companies, and Romney later accused his rivals of taking his words out of context.
The other Republicans in the race generally been content to vie for second place in hopes of emerging as his main rival in the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21.
"Second place would be a dream come true," said former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, as he raced through a final full New Hampshire campaign day that began before sunrise and stretched for more than 14 hours. The former Pennsylvania senator finished a surprising second in last week's Iowa caucuses, but without money for television ads he has appeared to struggle as he seeks to convert that into momentum.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, won in Iowa by eight votes. A victory in New Hampshire would make him the first Republican in a contested presidential nomination battle to capture the first two races of the campaign since Iowa began leading off for the GOP in 1976.
The battle has grown increasingly rancorous in recent days -- both in New Hampshire and next-up South Carolina -- with Santorum, Perry and Gingrich escalating their attacks on Romney's claim that a background in business uniquely qualifies him to help create American jobs.
At the same time, an organization that backs Gingrich has spread the word that it intends to spend $3.4 million on television ads in South Carolina that are expected to attack Romney with gusto.
"Now we'll see if he has the broad shoulders and can stand the heat," said Gingrich, relishing the battle ahead as the nominating campaign wheels South.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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