JUDY WOODRUFF: The Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa were history today, after Mitt Romney’s record-close win over Rick Santorum. The outcome reduced the field by one, but most of the candidates began moving from the Midwest to New England for the New Hampshire primary.
Hours after the Iowa results were finally official, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, returned to his backyard.
MITT ROMNEY (R): Wow, what a big night we had last night, or what a big morning we had last morning — this morning in Iowa. My goodness, what a squeaker. But it is sure is nice to have a win, I’ll tell you. And the question I have for you is, can we can do better here in New Hampshire?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MITT ROMNEY: Yes. Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Romney was already the strong favorite in New Hampshire. And to bolster his position, he turned to Arizona Sen. John McCain, the man who bested him there four years ago.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: It’s with some nostalgia that I return to this place that I love so well, but I’m really here for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to make sure that we make Mitt Romney the next president of the United States of America. And New Hampshire — and New Hampshire is the state that will catapult him on to victory in a very short period of time.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To do that, Romney will have to top a new competitor in the Granite State, Jon Huntsman, who has chosen to make this his first contest.
As Huntsman joins the fray, Michele Bachmann leaves it. The Minnesota congresswoman was once favored in Iowa after winning the straw poll there in August.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-Minn.: Thank you, everyone, for being here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But she finished sixth last night, and this morning in Des Moines, she suspended her campaign.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN: Last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice. And so I have decided to stand aside. And I believe that we must rally around the person that our country and our party and our people select to be that standard-bearer.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Texas Governor Rick Perry also flirted with dropping out, after his fifth-place showing.
GOV. RICK PERRY, R-Texas: With the voters’ decision tonight in Iowa, I have decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight’s caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, this morning, he indicated he was back in the race. Perry tweeted a photo of himself in running gear with the text: “The next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State. Here we come, South Carolina.”
RICK SANTORUM (R): Game on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Rick Santorum hoped to pick up social conservatives who had backed Bachmann and Perry, as he celebrated his near-win in Iowa last night.
RICK SANTORUM: The message I shared with you tonight is not an Iowa message or an Iowa and South Carolina message. It is a message that will resonate across this land. It’s a resonate — it will resonate, I know, in New Hampshire, because you think I have been in Iowa a lot.
RICK SANTORUM: I have been to New Hampshire 30 times.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The former Pennsylvania senator planned to pick up campaigning in New Hampshire tonight.
The third-place finisher in Iowa, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, also planned to campaign in New Hampshire, after taking today off. So did Newt Gingrich, who saw a double-digit lead in Iowa evaporate this winter. He finished fourth after a barrage of negative ads that he blamed on Romney.
Gingrich was still smarting as he arrived in New Hampshire early this morning. And, on MSNBC, he made clear he’s going after Romney.
NEWT GINGRICH (R): Even here, I predict you’ll see him slide. And by the time he gets to South Carolina and Florida, it will be obvious this is not a conservative Republican. He is not going to win the nomination, and he is not the most electable candidate. He is simply the guy the news media likes to talk about.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Romney, in turn, acknowledged the Gingrich criticism on ABC.
MITT ROMNEY: He’s disappointed in the results last night. But I expect he’ll go on and mount a spirited campaign. And, you know, we will look forward to seeing him in the — in the — in the states ahead. Look, I have pretty broad shoulders.
I know the attacks are going to come. They’re going to become more fast and furious now. And if you can’t handle the heat now, you certainly can’t handle the heat down the road.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, President Obama stepped up his own campaign today, with an appearance in a critical swing state.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello, Ohio!
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s aides predicted it could be some time before Republicans settle on a challenger for November. For now, the Republican hopefuls face the immediate test of two debates between now and next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
For the latest, we turn to our own Gwen Ifill, who was with Mitt Romney in Manchester today, and Jeremy Peters of The New York Times, who has been covering Rick Santorum’s campaign.
Gwen, I’m going to turn to you first.
You were covering Sen. – Gov. Romney when he received the endorsement of John McCain. Tell us about the event.
GWEN IFILL: Well, it was kind of interesting, because if you were here four years ago, or even eight years ago, when John McCain ran for president, he and Romney weren’t exactly on the same side of this. As a matter of fact, they were regularly attacking each other as flip-floppers.
But today they were best friends forever. And you saw Romney standing up there and embracing John McCain. John McCain actually dressed almost the way as he used to always dress at campaign events here in New Hampshire. But, of course, he said he’s only here to help defeat President Obama, who, of course, is the man who beat John McCain.
The key here is that John McCain also did well in the north and the west parts of New Hampshire, and Mitt Romney, who of course used to be governor of Massachusetts, always did well in the southeast. And if you can get that support together, it’ll give him the deal, even though Mitt Romney is quite far ahead in the polls so far.
And, frankly, it really — the event itself wasn’t all that. It was a lot of people in the room, a lot of schoolkids who came up from the high school cafeteria, and there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm. There was kind of some weak applause from time to time. It was odd for a campaign launch event in New Hampshire post-Iowa.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Gwen, as you say, Mitt Romney does have already the lead in the polls in New Hampshire, so how much of a bounce do his people think he gets out of this photo-finish win in Iowa?
GWEN IFILL: Well, winning even tight is better than a poke in the eye with a stick. So they’re happy to have won in New Hampshire — in Iowa, but it’s unclear whether that translates to New Hampshire.
Mike Huckabee won in Iowa pretty decisively four years ago. He came to here New Hampshire and barely got 11 percent of the vote and was very quickly out of the contest. So — and, in fact, no non-incumbent Republican, someone who wasn’t already president, has ever won both Iowa and New Hampshire.
So it’s unclear that Iowa really helps when it comes to New Hampshire. I was talking to Sen. Kelly Ayotte here today in New Hampshire, who is a Republican rising star freshman here, and she said: Well, that’s nice that we won. It’s better than losing in Iowa, but it doesn’t really matter to us here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about Rick Santorum.
Jeremy Peters, you have been following him around — were following him around in Iowa. How was he able to connect with voters so quickly there at the end.
JEREMY PETERS, The New York Times: Well, I think it was just a matter of voters looking around and being tired of all the other candidates, and seeing them implode one by one, and finally settling on the one guy who, A., didn’t have a lot of baggage and, B., had spent a lot of time in their state getting to know very Iowa-specific issues.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what sort of voters — I mean, how would you describe the Republicans and independents and others who voted for Rick Santorum?
JEREMY PETERS: Well, it was really a broad spectrum. And that’s what struck me when I was out on the trail interviewing people and asking them why they supported Senator Santorum.
On the one hand, you have what you would expect, a lot of evangelical Christian voters, a lot of social conservatives. But what surprised me were the number of white-collar conservatives who said that they were supporting him.
And often it were — these were voters who had decided that Newt Gingrich had too much personal baggage, that Perry had been problematic in the debates, and that Michele Bachmann, they just couldn’t go along with.
So they had kind of gone through the process of elimination and settled on Rick Santorum. And there were also a number of people who, interestingly enough, said they were trying to choose between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, which is — is quite a — there’s a lot of distance between the two of them on social issues and a number of other things.
So it was very surprising. I think that a lot of people were trying to decide who they wanted to be the not-Mitt Romney candidate, and they settled with Rick Santorum.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Gwen, how worried are the Romney people about Santorum?
GWEN IFILL: Not terribly yet.
I talked to a senior Romney adviser today and just put that very question to him. And he said, well, he thinks that Rick Santorum can do reasonably well in New Hampshire. Santorum himself points out he’s already been campaigning 30 times, more times than — almost as many times as Jon Huntsman, who’s basically taken up residence in the state, as New Hampshire is his last stand.
So they expect that Rick Santorum can do well here with the blue-collar crowd, of which there’s a significant Republican vote. They also suspect he can do here well with Catholics. He’s, of course, a Catholic and very, very evangelical in that — in his Catholicism.
But, also, there’s a great Catholic population here, especially in urban areas here in New Hampshire who could be helpful to Rick Santorum. But Mitt Romney has a big, big edge here. And it’s only one week, and it takes a lot of money to outrun somebody who’s raised as much money and gotten as much support and has run here before like Mitt Romney.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And with that in mind, Jeremy Peters, how much money does Rick Santorum have? What does he have in the way of infrastructure? He keeps saying he’s been to New Hampshire a lot. What does he really have there on the ground?
JEREMY PETERS: He has a campaign headquarters that’s very thinly staffed.
They rely on a lot of volunteers. But he doesn’t have much in the way of an infrastructure. And that is going to be his biggest challenge going forward, building a campaign infrastructure should he advance that far. And right now, it’s almost impossible to see how he does that at his current fund-raising levels.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Gwen, if there’s a limit to how worried the Romney people are about Santorum, what about the other candidates, Jon Huntsman, whom they haven’t faced with the voters yet? They faced him in debates. What do they say about him and the rest of the lot?
GWEN IFILL: Well, if you look at the tracking polls that have been keeping track of what’s happening to people over time, Jon Huntsman is creeping up very slowly, but he’s still not anywhere near to Mitt Romney’s strength in the state. So they’re not as worried as they might otherwise be about him, unless he has something he’s about to unleash.
Newt Gingrich has made clear he has a lot that he wants to unleash on Mitt Romney this week, so they’re keeping a very clear eye on him as well. But when asked about it, as we heard in our piece, Mitt Romney basically says, oh, you know, Newt is such an angry man, I hope he gets over that, and tries and pretends to let it kind of fall away.
They’re perfectly happy to lose Michele Bachmann, who wasn’t really taking that as much away from them, probably not as happy that Rick Perry decided to stay.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jeremy Peters, what about the themes, the message that Rick Santorum takes with him to New Hampshire? Do we expect to hear the same things he was saying in Iowa, which, frankly, many people haven’t even heard yet?
JEREMY PETERS: Right.
Well, and that’s one of the major problems for Rick Santorum going forward, because most people do not know who he is. And that leaves an opportunity for his rivals to paint that picture for him. And they can do that like they did with Newt Gingrich. And look at what’s happened to his candidacy.
So I think what you will hear from Rick Santorum is a lot of talk about how America is, in his opinion, a deeply broken place. He feels that the last three years under the Obama administration have taken the country down the wrong path. And that’s basically his general argument is, elect me and we will restore the country to its greatness.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, quickly, to sum up, Gwen, how do we look for New Hampshire to be different from what we saw in Iowa, and just in the way these candidates are campaigning and getting their message out?
GWEN IFILL: Well, Judy, if you want to sum it up, just listen to former governor, New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, former White House chief of staff from years ago.
He came up today to introduce Mitt Romney and John McCain. And he said the same two words over and over again. He said Mitt Romney is conservative and he’s a leader. When he talks about his conservatism, it’s a way of telling the people who might lean toward Rick Santorum not to get off the bus. And when he says he’s a leader, it’s a way of turning the focus to President Obama, which is really all he wants to talk about.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On that point, we will leave it, Gwen Ifill and Jeremy Peters. And we’ll be watching New Hampshire coverage all week. Thank you both.