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GOP Rivals Want To Stop Romney's Momentum


While Mitt Romney celebrates, his rivals face a harsh reality. For all the Republican anxiety about Romney - conservatives saying he's not really conservative, columnists worrying that he doesn't seem authentic; fear that the whole GOP field just isn't very strong - Romney has won both Iowa and New Hampshire.


Still, each of the other candidates did take a different meaning from last night's results. For one thing, Ron Paul can say he's attracting new voters and younger people, and the others are all still fighting.

NPR's Don Gonyea reports on the also-rans, and their primary night parties.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: This race was not close. But even while finishing in second place, 16 points back, congressman Ron Paul made his concession speech sound like a victory party.


RON PAUL: There was one other acknowledgment I wanted to make. I wanted to thank the Union Leader for not endorsing me.


GONYEA: The Union Leader is the conservative Manchester newspaper that was once a kingmaker. This time around, it endorsed Newt Gingrich - who got 9 percent of the vote.

But Ron Paul did well here, largely on the strength of voters who do not consider themselves Republican. In fact, yesterday's contest can barely be called a Republican primary. Nearly half of those voting describe themselves as independents, and Paul was their favorite candidate.

Ron Paul has yet to demonstrate that his libertarian message will sell to equally large numbers of Republicans. Still, he could be in the race to the end, as a spokesman for a cause.


GONYEA: In third place was former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. Considered the most moderate candidate in the field, he skipped Iowa and put all of his chips on New Hampshire. He got 17 percent of the vote for a respectable - but not really close - third place. It's hard to see where Huntsman does that well again - especially in the South, where the candidates head next. Still, Huntsman says third place is a ticket to stay in the game.


GONYEA: After Huntsman, two other candidates fought hard for what turned out to be fourth place. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich won that fight, barely edging out former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. Last month, Gingrich looked like a front-runner, before T.V. ads funded by a PAC that supports Mitt Romney took him down a few pegs. Last night, Gingrich was subdued in his remarks, still claiming to be the only candidate who could stand up to President Obama.


GONYEA: As for the guy who was the big story last week, Rick Santorum barely made it into the story this week. A week ago, Santorum began his caucus night speech by stating boldly: Game on - and saying his message was not just for Iowa and its large number of conservative Christian voters. He said it would play in New Hampshire as well. Last night…


GONYEA: Santorum and the other Romney rivals now continue on to South Carolina, a conservative Southern state where each of these survivors says he'll be the one who overtakes the man who's done all the winning so far.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Manchester. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Don Gonyea
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.