tonight on a special edition of "nightline," "your voice, your vote," the new hampshire primary. mitt-mentum. republicans go to the polls in the granite state for the first first in the nation primary and mitt romney racks up a big win. >> tonight we made history! target romney. he's already talking like a candidate. but romney's republican rivals are on the attack. painting the front-runner as a corporate insider who likes to fire workers. say, that sounds familiar. >> i like being able to fire people. and the coming battle. the decisive showdown shaping up ahead. >> make a list of every person you know in south carolina. >> a fight for the soul of the republican party. >> you should all fight for freedom. >> and the future of the nation.
>> this is a special edition of "nightline." "your voice, your vote." the new hampshire primary. reporting from abc news election headquarters in new york city, diane sawyer, george stephanopoulos, and terry moran. good evening. i'm terry moran. new hampshire has spoken. and tonight, the republican race for president boils down to one question. can anyone stop mitt romney? romney won new hampshire commandingly. about 40% of the vote. and the former massachusetts governor demonstrated resilience and staying power, after a week of fierce attacks from his opponents, aimed partly at his record at bain capital, the massachusetts investment firm he ran for 15 years. what does new hampshire mean? here are abc news election anchors diane sawyer and george stephanopoulos. >> that's right, terry. what a win it was tonight for governor mitt romney. we should point out who came in second and third in this race,
as they poured it on in new hampshire, the candidates all did. and behind mitt romney was congressman ron paul. and behind him, jon huntsman, governor jon huntsman, former ambassador to china, as well, who, in the last few days, seemed to be surging, gaining some steam. but apparently didn't have enough to take him into second place. >> perhaps not enough time. there were some polls showing he might come into second. but he couldn't get over ron paul. what we're learning also from these exit polls, what voters were focused on here is finding the candidate that could beat president obama. and mitt romney won those voters overwhelmingly. that's what drove him across the finish line here tonight. he also did well with voters who made up their minds a while ago. did even better than his vote total here. he did take some hits. we've been covering over the last couple of days, over his tenure at bain capital. over those comments he made on monday saying he liked being able to fire people.
of course, he was talking about insurance companies. everybody pounced on it, republicans and democrats. that cost him a little bit. his votes starting to splinter a little bit over those last couple of days. one other important point. independents really came out heavily in new hampshire. >> and depending which kind of independent they are and who they would be inclined to vote for. in the general election. the white house will be watching the independent vote. it was clear that governor romney thinks that this is a -- this is the moment. this is the big moment for him. and tonight, he moved right away to turn and take on president barack obama, as if to say, this is it. yes, we'll go -- >> we got this wrapped up. >> yeah. we got it wrapped up. let's listen. >> president obama wants to fundamentally transform america. we want to restore america to the founding principles that made this country great. he wants to turn america into a european-style social welfare state.
we want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity. this president takes his inspirations from the capitals of europe. we look to the cities and towns across america for our inspiration. this president puts his faith in government. we put our faith in the american people. >> diane, listen to that speech. that has the cadence of a convention speech. not a new hampshire primary speech right there. >> it does. you say he's wading right into the center of what is expected to be a kind of duel. he's already seen it with his republican rivals. >> the 90% -- >> bain capital -- >> exactly. at bain capital, as an investment banker, a venture capitalist. 90% of his speech was about president obama. that was his big focus of his
speech. he had two lines that were a real warning. he said if president obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. and in the last few days we've seen desperate republicans join forces with him. saying they are doing the democrats' dirty works. that's how he's going to push back in south carolina. >> they're buying ads there in south carolina. newt gingrich and the team are buying ads there, to try to take him on one last time. we have to point out, terry, you may have heard from david muir, that the family went to "mission impossible" today. he took the whole family to the movie today, as if to say, let's vault over the impossible and on to south carolina. terry? >> on to south carolina, diane, with a great big target on him on to south carolina. thanks to diane and george. we want to turn now to abc news anchor, david muir. he's live at romney headquarters in the campaign. he bought a house in new hampshire. he was running there in 2008. he ran there this year. and finally tonight, victory. it must be awful sweet for him. >> reporter: so sweet, terry. make no mistake about it. this was a huge night for the romney campaign.
they needed this night. they had that win in iowa. the sliver-thin victory of eight votes. then they came to new hampshire next where they were ahead in the polls. as you mentioned, he was the governor of massachusetts. this is his backyard in new hampshire. they have a summer home here, where they helped to raise the five boys you saw on the stage there behind governor romney with his wife ann. there was huge expectation that he would do well here. you saw what happened in the last 24 hours. the campaign telling me, it was the, quote, frenzy of being the front-runner. but he had ill-chosen words. you heard george and diane mention it there. he said, i like being able to fire people. he was talking about health insurance companies and americans having the right to get rid of those companies if they're not doing well enough. but there were big questions about whether or not that would eat into his win in new hampshire. and even more importantly, south carolina next, which is more of a blue collar state. and where there are serious questions about the jobless numbers there. but he was able to win new
hampshire and they are fueled tonight, taking iowa, new hampshire with them to south carolina, they believe they're on to something here. they're going to stop in florida sometime this week too. >> i believe they have not heard the last of the mitt romney i like to fire people line. thanks very much. david muir with the romney campaign. let's go to jake tapper. he's live at the headquarters of rick santorum, who battled for fourth. jake, i'd like you to put on your hat as our senior abc news white house correspondent. you could hear mitt romney in his acceptance -- i'm jumping the gun here. in his victory speech there, targeting barack obama. saying, i'm running against this guy. claiming the mantle of the republican front-runner. what did the white house hear? what do they want to think about? >> reporter: first of all, mitt romney, for months now, has been running a general election campaign quite often. you hear him say things in his remarks that are almost directly aimed at those independents, moderates, liberal republicans, who voted for obama, who are
having misgivings about it. you heard him say in his speech tonight, four years ago, obama came to new hampshire, a state he won handily, as you know, terry, to bring things together, change a broken system in washington, improve the nation, days of lofty promises, a hopeful candidate. now facing a disappointing record and a failed president. he is giving permission for those new hampshireites, who voted for obama, to vote for him, while also thinking obama was a good guy, forgiving themselves for having voted for him. it's a general election message. and the obama campaign has been focused on romney from the very beginning. thinking he's the only one with the money, the infrastructure, the network, who could become the nominee. they've been focussed on him, from the very beginning, terry. >> for all the bumps the romney campaign might have had, they have run a very successful campaign so far. thanks very much at santorum's headquarters. let's go to jon karl. senior political correspondent.
he's at the campaign headquarters of third place finisher, jon huntsman. so jon, jon huntsman spent six months in iowa, i heard somebody say tonight at that rate it will take him 25 years to win all 50 states. >> reporter: of course, you don't need to win 50 states to get the nomination. so maybe he could do this in 10 or 15 years. seriously, he was at 7% in the polls just three days ago. about fifth place. they think they have the momentum. they are carrying this campaign to south carolina. that is something that could pose a threat for mitt romney because any votes he gets down in south carolina, will likely come from romney. the other story here tonight, terry, was ron paul. nearly 25% of the vote. he is accumulating delegates. and remember, his is about a movement. he's trying to change the republican party. he's going to have delegates along the way, state to state. you've not heard the last from ron paul. >> absolutely, jon. we talked about that. the convention floor full of ron
paul supporters will be a headache. it was a win for mitt romney, a big one. what are the real surprise lessons to be learned from tonight? we're going to put it to our roundtable. what's going on? we ordered a gift online and we really need to do something with it... i'm just not sure what... what is it? oh just return it. returning gifts is easier than ever with priority mail flat rate boxes from the postal service. if it fits, it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate. plus i can pick it up for free. perfect because we have to get that outta this house. c'mon, it's not that... gahh, oh yeah that's gotta go... priority mail flat rate shipping starts at just $4.95. only from the postal service. a simpler way to ship and return. it just wouldn't go away. my doctor diagnosed it as fibromyalgia -- thought to be the result of overactive nerves that cause chronic, widespread pain.
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this election, let's go on to fight for the america we love because we believe in america. thank you so much. god bless america. thank you, guys. >> welcome back to our special edition of "nightline," "your voice, your vote," the new hampshire primary. a big night for mitt romney. let's bring in abc political consultant, matt dowd. and in new hampshire, democratic strategist, donna brazile.
welcome, matt, donna. is mitt romney the prohibitive front-runner? >> he is the prohibitive front-runner. when you end up with 39%, 40% of the vote you end up with, he's going to get a bump out of this. he's won two in a row. that hasn't happened in a long time. the last time that happened, gerald ford won two in a row, iowa and new hampshire. there's a lot of lessons we can't apply to south carolina. 60% of the vote is evangelical. that's one issue he has to confront that he hasn't had to dealt with. last time, he got 15% of the vote in south carolina. he has to deal with that. i think for all intents and purpose, when you look at this, his three likely opponents he thought he would have to battle with, rick perry, rick santorum and newt gingrich, together, got less votes than ron paul. i think the fact he will have to deal with is the long slog that ron paul is going to put him
through. ron paul, no matter how soon mitt romney sews this thing up, it's going to make him have to keep an infrastructure until the end. >> donna, what do you make of this? >> first of all, he has another big challenge. no question, he had home court advantage here in new hampshire. the voters here know him. they know his record in massachusetts. but the republicans did something over the last few days that they clearly didn't do months ago. and that is, they challenged mitt romney on his major message, which is, he is a businessman. he is a leader. and that he can create jobs. rick santorum, newt gingrich, rick perry, they tore into that record. and i think, mitt romney, while he's the leader in south carolina, he will have to reconstruct his message, that he's a candidate that can bring something different to the table for republicans. he lost among self-identified
independents. and didn't do well with middle-class voters. mitt romney has a lot to do. >> i want to pick up on something you said and play you guys something. the sense that occupy wall street has taken over the candidates. listen to what rick perry had to say about mitt romney's tenure as a venture capitalist at bain capital. >> they're just vultures. 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. they leave with that. and they leave the skeleton. >> very colorful. i think somebody should have taken up this mantle a long time. a populist government has a chance to run in this race. i think mitt romney bled some. if you look from the folks he
had before the last few days, he dropped 15 points in the people that voted the last few days. this is a message that will work well in south carolina, if they have the resources and if they have the time. >> donna, will it work well long-term for the democrats? >> there's no question. the democrats will look under the hood and kick the tires and make sure mitt romney has it what it takes to lead the country. i'll tell you right now, he's going to come up short. the republicans missed an opportunity to get the message out earlier. >> thanks very much for being with us tonight. when we come back, what was the one thing on all the candidates' minds tonight, win or lose? we'll tell you. ♪ you're singing with a broken string ♪ ♪ tell me what you really mean ♪ do you know what you want? ♪ while beating up on yesterday ♪ ♪ rolling on, moving on [ female announcer ] the space of a small suv.
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this special edition of "nightline," "your voice, your vote," the new hampshire primary, continues, with terry moran. >> the candidates may have vastly different takes on the night's results. but there was one point all their speeches had in common, south carolina. that's where the bus is headed next, in just 11 days. and here's abc's john berman. >> on to new hampshire. >> reporter: everything you've seen on your tv the last several days was completely made up. you've been tricked. the new hampshire primary actually ended days ago. >> i hope the people of new hampshire turn out. the entire nation is watching. >> reporter: not because we more or less knew who would win all along. nope. it was deeper than that. while the bodies were glad-handing in new hampshire diners, their brains, souls and thoughts were all elsewhere, in south carolina. want proof? the $3 million supporters of newt gingrich are shelling out to attack mitt romney. >> his mission, to reap massive
rewards for himself and his investors. >> mitt romney and them guys, they don't care who i am. >> reporter: everybody was talking about it in new hampshire. but it's happening in south carolina. the first in the nation primary was a fantasy. it practically never happened. like this employee town hall for newt gingrich, where the employees were sent away, to make space for cameras. >> we try not to do that. we ask for volunteers. if the media don't move, it doesn't leave us a lot of options. >> reporter: for the voters? >> we're trying to keep a nice balance here. >> reporter: a nice balance between the barrage of new hampshire and the main event of south carolina. south carolina. what's different from south carolina than new hampshire? >> it's warmer. i'll look forward to that, by the way. >> reporter: governor jon huntsman, who is trying to position himself as a moderate alternative to mitt romney, know that south carolina is more than balmy. it's the big-time. it's a state that doesn't mess
around. guys named obama, mccain, bush, dole, and bush and reagan, all won there and won the nomination. it's a place where you say good-bye to quaint notions like parties and pickup trucks. you can't do grassroots anymore. what's different after new hampshire? >> you have to combine grassroots and television. >> reporter: it's where the campaign goes national. >> hello, south carolina. >> reporter: and while the field may or may not shrink before the votes are cast there, there is one key name not on the ballot, expectations. at some point, you have to win-win. not just beat expectations. where can you win? >> we'll be able to prove that beyond here. >> reporter: there's no gentleman's sea in south carolina. just a gentleman's see you later. good-bye, new hampshire. >> thank you, guys. you're the best. >> reporter: hello, reality. i'm john berman, for "nightline," in