Romney set to emerge as Obama challenger

Washington: Mitt Romney, a millionaire venture capitalist, today emerged as a clear favourite to take on President Barack Obama in the November elections, scoring a stunning victory in the New Hampshire primary by turning back a ferocious assault from his Republican pack of rivals.

Romney, 51, the former Massachusetts Governor, won the New Hampshire primary by a double digit margin. His victory came on the heels of his win in the Iowa caucus last week by just eight votes in a nail biting finish. The leading Republican candidate received a whopping 40 per cent of the total votes polled in the New Hampshire Republican primary.

Romney immediately set his sights on South Carolina primary on January 21 and the battle in Florida on January 31 which would cement his standing as the Republican front-runner. Chances of another runway win in South Carolina have brightened with Indian-origin Governor Nikki Haley backing him. After his thumping win, Romney threw a challenge to Obama, saying that the president has run out of ideas. "Now he is running out of ideas and now we are asking people of South Carolina to join to make 2012 the year he runs out of time."

Texas Congressman Ron Paul finished second, way behind with 23 per cent and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who also served as the US Ambassador to China during first two years of the Obama Administration, was placed a poor third. Rick Santorum, who lost the Iowa caucus by just eight votes, polled less than 10 per cent of votes and so did Newt Gingrich, former Speaker US House of Representatives, making Romney the hot favourite to take on the incumbent President Barack Obama in November elections.

This is for the first time that a Republican candidate has won both the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. With two wins, Romney is ahead of others as he became the first Republican, other than a sitting president, to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. "We made history," Romney said in his victory speech in Manchester.