Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary last night, winning 39 percent of the vote more or less exactly as expected.
Ron Paul came in a distant second with 23 percent of the vote, John Huntsman took third with 17 percent, and Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum each got about 9 percent. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who Republicans seemed to like for a minute, secured 0.7 percent.
Coupled with Romney’s narrow win in Iowa and a good shot at winning the South Carolina primary next Thursday, the former Massachusetts governor is looking increasingly likely to lock up the Republican race early this year.
Journalists and news-consumers who dreamed of Republican horse-race stories stretching out to the summer may soon have to console themselves by starting to handicap the Romney-Obama contest.
Romney’s unambiguous victory was never much in doubt in New Hampshire, despite a week of improbably Occupy-Wall-Street-tinged attacks on his history as a corporate raider by his opponents and (getting an early start on the general election) MoveOn.
Romney didn’t do much to help himself in a speech Monday, when what was probably supposed to be a statement on the virtues of market accountability veered instead into an awkward and instantly quotable declaration of his love of firing people.
The Romney juggernaut rolled on to victory anyway, but his opponents aren’t giving up. Paul, Huntsman, Santorum and Gingrich have all promised to fight on past New Hampshire.
One potential bump on Romney’s road to the nomination is the $5 million Gingrich just got from a gambling magnate who likes his support of Israel.