Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday with 39.3 percent of the vote, finishing well ahead of Ron Paul (22.8 percent) and Jon Huntsman (16.9 percent).

Exit polls showed supporters of the former Massachusetts governor valued him for his potential as a challenger to President Obama, which was reflected in Romney’s victory speech, writes The Post’s Karen Tumulty.

“Where Romney’s remarks on the night of the Iowa caucuses were off the cuff, his New Hampshire victory speech — delivered with a teleprompter, shortly after the polls closed — sounded more like an address he envisions giving at the Republican convention.

Romney focused on what he called ‘the disappointing record of a failed president’ rather than the rest of the GOP field.

To the degree he even mentioned his increasingly combative primary opponents, it was as an oblique reference to ‘some desperate Republicans’ who, he said, have joined forces with Obama.”

Dan Balz writes that the victory poises Romney to all-but clinch the nomination with a win in South Carolina on Jan. 21.

“Mitt Romney got virtually everything he needed out of the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night. He won a decisive victory that put him in a dominant position to win the Republican presidential nomination, and he will move on to South Carolina with his opposition badly splintered and running out of time to stop him.”

Romney’s efforts to play down his wealth and privileged background while campaigning in New Hampshire may prove an ongoing liability writes Philip Rucker.

“As Romney heads to South Carolina hoping to polish off his rivals after Tuesday’s primary victory, there may be lasting damage from his week of campaigning in New Hampshire. In trying to correct a weakness — some critics have called it inauthenticity — Romney may have only amplified it.”

Some conservative activists oppose Romney winning the GOP nomination and are working on a strategy to prevent him from winning in South Carolina, write Peter Wallsten and Karen Tumulty.

“Many social conservatives worry about his past support for abortion rights (he has since declared himself antiabortion), and some are wary of his Mormon faith. Meanwhile, many tea party activists say Romney’s background in finance and his support for the Wall Street bailout are reasons for skepticism.”

The activists are having a difficult time agreeing on which rival to support to support, however.

“The tension is exacerbated by the deep divisions between two key GOP wings: tea party groups yearning for a pure small-government conservative, and evangelical Christians who want a loyal social conservative.”

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