Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night with a broad-based coalition of both conservative and moderate voters overwhelmingly motivated by their worries about Americaâ€™s economic future and wanting above all to beat President Barack Obama in November.
According to exit poll data, more than a third of voters on Tuesday said the quality that mattered most in deciding their vote was the candidateâ€™s ability to defeat Obama. Romney won an overwhelming 62 percent of those voters.
Regardless of how they voted, 56 percent of Tuesdayâ€™s voters thought Romney would be most likely to beat Obama in November; the runner-up in that category was Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with only 15 percent and only 11 percent saw former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman as most likely to defeat Obama.
Even though Tuesday was a Republican primary, independents could request Republican ballots and vote in the primary.
Remarkably, self-described independents accounted for nearly half of all voters Tuesday â€“ a piece of data which has implications for November. Paul won 32 percent of independents, with Romney getting 29 percent, and Huntsman picking up 23 percent of them.
In his 2000 battle with Al Gore, George W. Bush won New Hampshire by 7,211 votes out of a total of nearly 570,000 votes. If Romney is the GOP nominee that would make New Hampshire competitive this fall. Having an appeal to independents would be crucial to his hopes of carrying the state and its four electoral votes.
Among self-described Republicans Romney won a solid 49 percent of them, according to exit poll interviews. The closet contenders with appeal to Republicans were Paul with 16 percent and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 13 percent.Huntsman invested heavily in New Hampshire and will likely finish a distant third once all the votes are counted.