Paul, Huntsman, Santorum, Gingrich Ready For War In 'Palmetto State'

BEDFORD, N.H. (CBSNewYork) — What a relief for Mitt Romney.

Last week’s squeaker in Iowa turned into a decisive victory in New Hampshire on Tuesday night. But as that old song goes, we’ve only just begun.

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Romney’s win in New Hampshire, coupled with his victory in the very different state of Iowa, cements his status as the clear frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination — albeit one about whom many Republicans have yet to embrace, as evidenced by national polls showing him unable to win more than 30 percent support.

“Thank you New Hampshire. Tonight we made history,” Romney said upon learning the news that he had won the nation’s first primary.

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It was clearly a good night for Romney, but as the favorite son from neighboring Massachusetts it would have been the end of the road if he had not prevailed. He stepped up his attacks on President Barack Obama even as he looked forward to the next primary contest.

“The president has run out of ideas. Now he’s running out of excuses. And tonight we are asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year he runs out of time,” Romney said.

President Obama won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire without opposition from a major candidate. Romney did not name any of his GOP rivals in his victory remarks.

But the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21 wont be as easy as New Hampshire was for Romney. Georgia boy Newt Gingrich had his sights set on South Carolina, where Romney’s gun policies are not expected to be popular.

“In South Carolina I think clearly Governor Romney’s support to gun control and raising taxes on guns will be an issue that I think South Carolinans will respond to,” Gingrich said.

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The head of the South Carolina Republican party, Chad Connelly, said Iowa and New Hampshire tend to play nice, but in South Carolina, “it turns into a battle royale.”

As much as $5 million in ad buys were placed Tuesday night and another $15 million to $20 million more are expected in the next few days, according to South Carolina officials.

And even though Romney won, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum and Gingrich will all be competing in the “Palmetto State.”

“We have had a victory for the cause of liberty tonight,” Paul said.

“Here we sit with a ticket to ride and move on.  Here we got to South Carolina,” Huntsman said.

“We have a campaign that has a message and a messenger that can deliver what we need to defeat Barack Obama. We are going to go on to South Carolina,” Santorum said. “So we can go down to South Carolina and kick a little butt in South Carolina.”

There are 11 campaign days left before South Carolina, so buckle your seat belts for a bumpy, bumpy ride.

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