By Jennifer Bowen - email
NEW HAMPSHIRE (RNN) - Within minutes of the last polls closing, CNN projected Mitt Romney the winner of the New Hampshire primary.
With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, carried 40 percent of the vote.
"Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we go back to work," Romney told a cheering crowd in Manchester.
Ron Paul came in second with 23 percent and New Hampshire resident Jon Huntsman placed third with 17 percent.
"[Romney] had a clear cut victory but we're nibbling at his heels," Paul told supporters.
The New Hampshire primary was largely a question of who would come in second. A Suffolk University/7 News poll released Monday showed former Romney carrying a comfortable, even commanding lead into the primary.
Candidates like Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, hoped a strong finish would springboard them into the next primary in South Carolina on Jan. 21.
"All eyes are on South Carolina from here," Huntsman told CNN Tuesday night.
For Romney, a win in South Carolina could be the final needed blow to seal the nomination. Already campaigning like the nominee, Romney took aim at President Barack Obama, saying "we're faced with the disappointing record of a failed president."
"The president has run out of ideas, now he's running out of excuses. Tonight, we're asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire to make 2012 the year he runs out of time," Romney told supporters Tuesday night.
Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum, who made a surprising late surge to come in second place in last week's Iowa caucuses, was tied at fourth place with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich with 10 percent of the vote, until settling in fifth place with 9 percent of the vote.
Santorum pledged to continue on to South Carolina, saying he wouldn't be deterred by "those who'd like to think that this race could be over in one to two states, states that have been the backyard and home of a certain candidate," referring to Romney.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who skipped campaigning in New Hampshire to focus exclusively on South Carolina, polled 1 percent of the vote, coming in last place.