COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Mitt Romney says he's ready for an uphill climb in South Carolina after coasting through New Hampshire. As the Republican presidential contest moves south, his rivals are sharpening their attacks and hoping to win over tea partyers and religious conservatives who feel uncomfortable with the front-runner.
Still, Romney continued to project a confident style Wednesday that must be wearing on his five opponents. He dismissed much of their criticism as stemming from desperation. And he said that while several can raise enough campaign money to keep the nomination fight going, "I expect them to fall by the wayside eventually for lack of voters."
Despite the rougher tone and tougher ideological terrain ahead, the former Massachusetts governor is looking to force his opponents from the race by achieving a four-state streak with victories in South Carolina on Jan. 21 and Florida 10 days later. He posted a double-digit win Tuesday night in New Hampshire after a squeaker the week before in Iowa - making him the first non-incumbent Republican in a generation to pull off the back-to-back feat.
"Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we go back to work," Romney told a raucous victory party in Manchester, N.H., probably mindful of the minefields that South Carolina held for him four years ago when he failed to win over Republicans skeptical of his Mormon faith and reversals on some social issues. "We are asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire."
All the candidates planned to campaign in the state Wednesday. Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman were flying in from New Hampshire. They'll join Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who didn't invest much time in New Hampshire while putting his post-Iowa focus on South Carolina.
Several of Romney's rivals have made clear they will seek to undercut the chief rationale of his candidacy: that his experience in private business makes him the strongest Republican to take on President Barack Obama on the economy in the fall. Perry, for one, is accusing Romney of "vulture capitalism" that led to job losses in economically distressed South Carolina.
Romney said his opponents sound like Democrats attacking the free enterprise system and encouraging jealousy toward the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
"It's a very envy-oriented attack," he said Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show.
Romney said the criticism of his past dealings actually works to his benefit by highlighting the business acumen that will help him set the nation's economy right and shrink the federal government.
TV ads already are filling the airwaves, including negative spots like a new one from Gingrich assailing Romney for switching his position on an issue that resonates strongly with evangelicals who make up the base of the GOP here.
"He governed pro-abortion," the Gingrich ad says. "Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney: He can't be trusted."
About $3.5 million already has been spent on TV ads in South Carolina, the bulk of it by Perry and a supportive super PAC. But that doesn't count the $3.4 million a pro-Gingrich group has pledged to spend to go after Romney, or the $2.3 million a pro-Romney group plans to spend in the coming days. Santorum and a super PAC friendly to him also are pouring money into the state, as is an outside group working on Huntsman's behalf.
Expect a flood of more hard-hitting commercials - primarily aimed at the front-runner - in a state known for brass-knuckled Republican politics.
Romney, for his part, is dismissing the attacks, most notably the ones over his time at Bain Capital.
"President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him," Romney said in his victory speech, chastising his critics while acting as though he is already the nominee. "This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation."
"The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy," Romney added.
For all of Romney's challenges, the presence of a cluster of socially conservative candidates fighting to be his chief alternative could work in his favor by splitting the vote on the party's right flank. Santorum, Gingrich, Perry and others split the faith-focused vote in Iowa. South Carolina also has a large contingent of evangelical voters, some of whom remain suspicious of Romney.
"I don't know if we can win South Carolina, I was fourth there last time I ran," Romney said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America. "I know it's an uphill battle."
But Romney noted that he carried the conservative and tea party vote in South Carolina.
Unlike New Hampshire, South Carolina could end up being the last stop for some candidates.
Perry, for one, has had back-to-back dismal showings, and is dismissing the earlier contests as inconsequential as he looks to right his struggling campaign in South Carolina.
"They kind of start separating the wheat from the chaff, if you will," Perry told a cafe crowd Tuesday. "But South Carolina picks presidents."
Gingrich, the former Georgia lawmaker, is also playing on his regional ties.
"The ideal South Carolina fight would be a Georgia conservative versus a Massachusetts moderate," he said, echoing a theme central to his fierce ads.
Santorum and Huntsman also have vowed to press on in the face of Romney's latest victory. Santorum wants to claim the conservative mantle; Huntsman eschews ideological labels and is selling himself as someone who can heal a polarized nation.
"Third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentleman," Huntsman boomed from the lectern after finishing third in New Hampshire. "Hello, South Carolina."
Associated Press writers Shannon McCaffrey and Beth Fouhy in New Hampshire and Connie Cass in Washington contributed to this report.
Check out the live blog below for the latest developments out of New Hampshire.
Aiming to oust some Republican members of Congress in November, a new Latino-issues super PAC announced Wednesday that it will spent roughly million on advertising, polling and other such efforts this year.
The super PAC, The American Worker, will focus on job issues in districts with large Latino populations, including in Arizona, California and Texas, the group said in a press release. Its first ad went up on Tuesday in San Antonio, which is represented by Republican Rep. Quico Canseco.
Running in both English and Spanish, the ad criticizes the congressman for voting against a payroll tax extension, calling him a "millionaire bank executive" and implying he is out of touch with Americans.
"He appears to be confused on who he works for in Congress," the ad's narrator says.
-- Elise Foley
The victory came early -- immediately, in fact -- and Romney celebrated with a speech that, while lacking in personal charm, was a much more rousing, less-hectic oration than the one he'd delivered a week prior. It was hard to argue that his grip on the eventual nomination didn't grow more certain after last night.
Unless you asked his competitors! Yes, despite the fact that two contests were in the books and Romney's stock had risen considerably within a week's time, the field facing Romney -- having shed Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) after Iowa -- refused to winnow itself any further. Instead, the losing candidates, one by one, took to their lecterns to assure their supporters about how awesome their campaigns were going.
Read more and watch a mash-up of the optimistic candidates from The Huffington Post's Ben Craw here.
-- Jason Linkins
Mitt Romney's campaign announced this morning that they raised million in the fourth quarter and have million on hand for the primary.
The announcement comes hours after Romney's convincing win in New Hampshire, and furthers the impression that he is the inevitable GOP nominee.
Romney's national finance chairman Spencer Zwick said the number is evidence of "growing momentum for our campaign."
-- Jon Ward
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Word is that Newt, on the plane down to South Carolina, was in a testy mood.
Gingrich alarmed the network embeds by declaring that his first speech this morning in the Palmetto State would be "historic." Some of the younger reporters were barely in kindergarten when he led the charge for "The Contract with America."
He's over-using "historic" the way Donald Trump over-uses "huge." So Newt's speeches from now on will be hugely historic.
-- Howard Fineman
After a disappointing tied-for-fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, Rick Santorum's campaign announced on Wednesday it will open five new campaign offices in South Carolina ahead of the Jan. 21 primary there.
South Carolina's primary result will likely winnow the field, which currently consists of six major candidates, and Santorum needs a strong showing there to stay in the race. In addition to advertising, this effort will include expanding the campaign's organization, in part by opening the five new campaign offices. The campaign is now organized in 42 of the 46 counties, according to a Wednesday press release.
Santorum campaign manager Mike Biundo told reporters on Tuesday evening that they will spend about million on media in South Carolina. In Iowa, by comparison, the campaign spent about ,000 on media, he said, and in almost nothing in New Hampshire.
Santorum has only visited South Carolina once since Nov. 12, Politico reported Tuesday, but is in the state on Wednesday to campaign until the primary.
-- Elise Foley
HuffPost's Jon Ward reports:
After a solid win in the Granite State, and signs that attacks on his business career may be backfiring, Mitt Romney should be on top of the world. Yet he is still a candidate at something of a crossroads.
Click here to read more.
Andy Kroll from Mother Jones on Tuesday night interviewed the elder Huntsman, a multi-billionaire who has helped fund a super PAC supporting his son's presidential campaign, and asked if he'd continue his financial backing. His response was noncommittal.
From Kroll's interview:
AK: I was just wondering about the Our Destiny super-PAC. Do you plan to support it or support your son's campaign? Any comment on that going forward?
JH: Oh, I think he's just done a great job tonight. We love him very much.
AK: Do you think you'll continue supporting him financially going forward, sir?
JH: [Pauses and smiles.] Thank you. Thank you very much.
Read more at Mother Jones.
HuffPost's Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel report:
Mitt Romney may have formally won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night, and by a fairly substantial margin at that. But his real victory came in the form of the concession speeches of his competitors, none of whom hinted that they would drop out of the race.
Despite more than four years spent campaigning for the presidency, Romney remains an untrusted commodity in conservative circles. What's propelling the former Massachusetts governor's candidacy this time around are competitors who are, at once, ineffectual as politicians and unwilling to quit.
The anyone-but-Mitt vote remains fairly divided, with Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) firmly winning over a solid chunk of New Hampshire voters Tuesday. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman spent time in the spotlight in the lead-up to Tuesday's vote as well, while former Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have all, at times, been the non-Romney flavor of the moment.
Were one of the candidates to quit, it could potentially boost one or more that remained. But in the wake of the New Hampshire primary -- in which Jon Huntsman finished third, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were battling for fourth as results were still rolling in and Rick Perry came in sixth -- not one hinted that he would even consider blinking.
Click here to read more.
Who came out a winner and who came out a loser in the New Hampshire primary? Click here to view a slideshow and vote.
|@ samsteinhp : harwood is reporting that rick santorum raised million this past week and spent nothing on air time.|
While interviewing Rick Perry on his Fox News show Tuesday night, Sean Hannity criticized the Texas governor's recent attacks on Mitt Romney's corporate record, saying he sounded "like something from Occupy Wall Street."
Over the past few days, Perry has been a vocal critic of Romney's tenure at the helm of Bain Capital. "They're vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass," he said to a crowd in South Carolina on Tuesday, in reference to the firm. Perry has also said that Bain "looted" and got "rich off failures and sticking it to someone else."
Perry repeated the vulture line on Fox, telling Hannity, "There's a difference between venture capitalism and vulture capitalism."
-- Mollie Reilly
|@ newtgingrich : Thank you NH. Heading to South Carolina to continue the fight for lower taxes, protecting life and restoring jobs and growth. #withnewt|
|@ amyewalter : Since '80, average margin of victory for GOP primary winner is 11.6%. Romney currently leading by 14% (h/t @LizHartfield )|
|@ amyewalter : Also since '80, no candidate who has lost IA and NH has gone on to win SC|
Bedford Patch's Robert Cook reports:
But Biden and Shaheen both said there is a great deal of work to do to ensure that President Obama gets another term in office so he can continue to work that is needed to help America recover from the recession.
"This is just a dry run today for what we have to do nine months from now," Shaheen said.
-- John Celock
|@ MysteryPollster : This is the message that GOP activists are hearing tonight “@PatrickRuffini: Mitt Romney is the nominee. Resistance is futile.”|
On the heels of Mitt Romney's victory in New Hampshire, pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future upped its ad buy in Florida by .6 million, with the aim of taking out the former governor's opponents and ending the race by the end of the month.
The super PAC had just announced a .7 million ad buy in the Sunshine State on Tuesday morning, bringing their total expenditures in the campaign to million.
NBC noted that Tuesday's ad buys were particularly large, considering that Romney's campaign had spent .5 million total in advertising.
Florida holds its primary on January 31, ten days after the primary in South Carolina.
-- Mollie Reilly
|@ Klandrigan : Independents deliver Huntsman his third place NH showing; he finishes fifth among Republicans in exit polls. #Klandrigan|
Click here to read a special New Hampshire primary night edition of HUFFPOST HILL.
|@ howardfineman : Ron Paul and Mitt Romney making nice to each other now, but eventually there will be a reckoning - and Mitt won't like the experience|
|@ howardfineman : Newt cried in Iowa and looks miserable here in NH. He knows he risks making himself a pariah as he pursues "socialist" attacks on Mitt.|
Bedford Patch reports:
Jon Huntsman, once toiling in near obscurity, powered to a respectable third in the New Hampshire Primary. Despite his solid result, supporter John Bzik of Bedford could not hide his disappointment.
"If he had a few more days," he said of Huntsman's surge in recent days. "He just ran out of time. I'd like to see him carry on, but I think it's going to be very difficult."
|@ GingerGibson : Newt leaves the stage farther behind than when he got on the stage. More than 200 votes behind Santorum.|
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Mike Biundo, Rick Santorum's campaign manager, told reporters at the campaign's primary night party that they will be investing approximately million in South Carolina in media, a large amount compared to the relative lack of investment they made in New Hampshire.
"We're obviously going to put a lot more money into media [in South Carolina] than he did up here, and certainly more than we did in Iowa as well," Biundo said.
"I mean look -- we spent ,000 on the air in Iowa, and we came within eight votes," he continued. "We spent no money really on the air here, and this is where we came out. We feel very good. I think we have million committed between what we're putting in and what we're going to put in. So I feel pretty good about that now. We'll be adding more and reassessing as things go along."
-- Amanda Terkel
Newt Gingrich spoke with supporters Tuesday after New Hampshire's primary elections, assuring voters that he would continue to campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
"I believe if we had a Republican House, Republican Senate and a Gingrich presidency, we'd get amazing things done," Gingrich said. "Make a list of every person you know in South Carolina, and every person you know in Flordia, because those are the next two great contests."
"We can create a majority that will shock the country," Gingrich continued.
Gingrich used the speech as an opportunity to criticize Obama.
"If we do not go the extra mile... and we continue down the road Obama has us on... more years of decay, more years of inadaquacy, more years of falling behind. That's the alternative," he said.
Gingrich said it was important to choose a Republican candidate capable "debating Barack Obama face-to-face" in order to "overcome his billion dollar machine." He asserted that he would continue striving to be that candidate.
-- Paige Lavender
|@ howardfineman : Newt's defeat speech starts about him, with "I's" + third-person "Gingrich." I've known him for 20 years, never seen him look so unhappy.|
Santorum spoke with supporters after Tuesday's New Hampshire primary election.
"We knew it would be tough but you know what, the message we had of going out and believing in the American people, believing that we need to have opportunity not just for some in America... we took that message here to New Hampshire," he said. "We built this campaign here in New Hampshire in just a very short period of time."
Santorum noted that his campaign didn't have much money to spend in the Granite State. He said it was more important that the effort to defeat Barack Obama accelerated in New Hampshire.
"We are going to go on to South Carolina," Santorum said.
Santorum -- who placed second in the Iowa Caucus, just eight votes behind Mitt Romney -- addressed his rival in his speech.
"For those who would like to think that somehow or another this race can be over in one or two states, states that have been the backyard and the home of a certain candidate -- who, by the way, I want to congratulate Mitt Romney tonight," Santorum said.
Santorum went on to express faith in his own campaign.
"With faith in the American people, we can not only wipe out this deficit, we can not only rebuild this economy... but we can do so in a huge victory that will rally this country to take on the great challenges we have before us," Santorum said. "On to South Carolina!"
-- Paige Lavender
|@ howardfineman : Going after Obama on "appeasement" theme is "road to ruin" says GOP/MSNBC analyst Steve Schmidt. He's probably right: it's O's strong suit|
The New York Times' Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker report:
Campaign advisers to former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, stung by unexpectedly ferocious attacks from Republican rivals on his career as a corporate buyout specialist, are scrambling to avoid a prolonged and nasty battle over his business record and are rallying party leaders to put an end to the debate before it leaves lasting damage on the front-runner.
Click here to read more.
Bedford Patch's Kyle Stucker reports:
Jack Kimball, the former head of the state GOP, said he was "not surprised" at the win, although he said that didn't stop the timing of the outcome - declared at 8 p.m. with only 9 percent of the precincts reporting - and the outcome itself from being a "disappointment."
"It's not a healthy victory," said Kimball, a Newt Gingrich supporter. "There's still room here. Romney may have won here tonight, but it's not a healthy victory. He really didn't close a deal here yet."