Romney Wins New Hampshire

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Wednesday January 11, 2012

MANCHESTER, NH-Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won a decisive victory against his Republican challengers in the New Hampshire presidential primary on Tuesday.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Romney received 39 percent of the vote. Texas Congressman Ron Paul came in second with 23 percent, while former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman came in third with 17 percent of the vote.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came in fourth with nine percent of the vote, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum came in fifth with slightly more than 200 fewer votes. Texas Gov. Rick Perry received 1 percent of the vote.

"Tonight we made history," Romney told supporters at Southern New Hampshire University.

The economy and jobs were the top issues among voters going into the primary, but several candidates faced increased scrutiny over the opposition to marriage for same-sex couples in the days leading up to the vote.

A group of Occupy protesters called Santorum a "bigot" as he, his wife and two of their children left a campaign rally at a Manchester bar on Monday night-a woman asked him at a town hall meeting in Salem earlier in the day whether his anti-gay positions make him an electable candidate. Santorum sparked further controversy among LGBT activists when he claimed he and President Barack Obama have the same position on marriage equality.

Romney and Perry both endorsed a bill that would repeal the state's marriage equality repeal bill, even though a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll last October found 62 percent of Granite State residents support the law that has been in effect since Jan. 2010. Forty-four percent of respondents said they would consider voting against any candidate who were to support the measure.

Gingrich and Romney both said they support hospital visitation and other rights for same-sex couples during the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm's College on Jan. 7. Huntsman stressed his support for civil unions, even though he has previously indicated his support for the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Karen Testerman, who founded the conservative Cornerstone Action, told EDGE as she awaited Santorum's speech at the Derryfield Country Club in Manchester that the way people questioned the candidate on his position on marriage was unfair.

"In reality he's for traditional marriage-marriage between a man and a woman for a lifetime," she said. "Any deviation from that family form is what causes a lot of ills and grows our Department of Health and Human Services and causes inequities in the development of poverty. He's looking at it from more of what we can gain from traditional marriages and how those traditional families will transcend into the next generation."

Joyce Haas, vice chair of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, acknowledged that the marriage equality repeal bill prompted a lot of questions about nuptials for same-sex couples. Like Testerman, Haas said Santorum's statements on the issue has come under unfair scrutiny in New Hampshire.

"At least they have been misunderstood," she said, noting she feels Santorum would actually supports civil unions. "I haven't heard him say it in exactly those terms, but he does believe that for instance, every insurance, going into hospitals, inheritance rights. He supports those civil union type rights. The only thing that's different is the 3,000 year institution of marriage being one man and one woman."

Santorum did not specifically cite marriage in his post-primary speech, but LGBT activists stressed that anti-gay rhetoric did not resonate with the majority of New Hampshire primary voters.

"New Hampshire is famously known as the 'Live Free or Die' state," noted Christian Berle, deputy executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. He further stressed New Hampshire is one of only six states and the District of Columbia that allow same-sex couples to marry.

"[New Hampshire] maintains strong support for individual liberty and individual responsibility," said Berle.

Michael Cole-Schwartz of the Human Rights Campaign looked beyond New Hampshire.

"Anti-LGBT rhetoric may appeal to the fringes in primary season, but it's going to be toxic when we get to the general election," he said.

Testerman, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010, said Santorum's "strong support of traditional marriage" did not contribute to his fourth place finish.

"It's more exposure," she said, referring back to her previous point. "When we come out of New Hampshire, it's going to make a difference because Huntsman hasn't played any place else. I don't think it's a definite loss, but the fact we're neck and neck with Gingrich is a positive."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.