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Tuesday's New Hampshire Republican primary went as expected, with Mitt Romney emerging as the winner with a commanding double-digit lead (despite the specter of his recent unfortunate "I like being able to fire people" comment).  After winning Iowa last week, his triumph marks the first time that a Republican presidential candidate since 1976 has won the contests in both states.

After briefly thanking New Hampshire voters in his victory speech, Romney wasted no time criticizing President Obama, which he did immediately and extensively throughout the length of his remarks. "Today we're facing the disappointment of a failed president," he said before ticking off dismal economic statics. "And this president wakes up every morning, looks across America and is proud to announce, 'It could be worse.' It could be worse? That is not what it means to be American. What defines us as Americans is our unwavering conviction that it must be better and it will be better."

Before an exuberant crowd, Romney vowed that his plan of cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, and making the massive Bush tax cuts permanent, will lead to better days of low unemployment, a narrowed wealth gap and a restored AAA rating from Standard & Poor's.  

"I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we're lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success," he said to thunderous cheers. "[President Obama] wants to turn America into a European-style social welfare state. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity."

Moving along to the runners-up, Ron Paul took second place. It was a very strong showing -- especially considering that Jon Hunstman, who came in third, had staked his entire campaign in New Hampshire with hopes of nabbing that second-place spot. Paul's continued momentum keeps his campaign, and his energized young base, afloat and in the spotlight.

Though Romney has cemented his front-runner status, we'll see in the coming days whether or not the first primary results compel any second-tier candidates (sidelong glance at Rick Perry, who finished last) to finally throw in the towel.

Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.

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