Romney garnered 39 percent of the vote, a 16-percentage point advantage over his closest challenger, Texas congressman Ron Paul.
The decisive victory in Tuesday’s primary followed Romney’s narrow win in last week’s Iowa caucuses, giving him powerful momentum ahead of the crucial South Carolina primary on Jan. 21. A win there and in Florida 10 days later could make Romney all but unstoppable.
Because of his appeal to independent voters, Romney could be the toughest potential rival for Obama, whose popularity has fallen because of the slow U.S. recovery from the Great Recession. Exit polls showed the economy was the biggest issue in New Hampshire, as it has been nationwide.