Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney claimed nearly 40 percent of yesterday’s vote in the country’s first primary of the 2012 general election season, according to the Associated Press.

Last night’s victory in New Hampshire only solidified Romney’s status as the GOP front-runner, but after two contests, Romney still faces an uphill battle to win over more than half of the GOP voters who still prefer another of the party’s candidates. Romney finished last week’s Iowa caucuses with a narrow margin of victory over former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn).

Romney, one of the more “moderate” candidates in the race, doesn’t support allowing gay couples to marry, but he does support some kind of partnership agreement between consenting adults.

“What I would support is letting people who are of the same gender form, if you will, partnership agreements,” Romney said a few months ago. “If they want to have a partnership with someone else and have, as a result of that, such things as hospital visitation rights and similar benefits of that nature.”

Congressman Ron Paul, the target of attack ads by the National Organization for Marriage in the week leading up the the New Hampshire primary, finished a distant second, some 17 percentages points off the lead.

Former  Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman finished third. Huntsman, President Obama’s Ambassador to China, campaigned heavily in New Hampshire and was hoping the contest would kick-start his fledgling campaign. Former Speaker of the House New Gingrich and Santorum both finished in fourth, with 9.4% of the vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry finished just ahead of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann with less than one percent of the votes cast.

The candidates head to South Carolina next, with the likes of Santorum and Perry both hoping to rebound with the help of the state’s evangelical voters. Romney finished fourth in the 2008 GOP primary in the Palmetto State.

 

Top photo: Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney (via Facebook)

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