Mitt Romney made history with his victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary, and feeling a tailwind after back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, the front-runner is dual-focused -- setting his sights on the next voting state of South Carolina as well as his would-be general election rival President Obama.
Becoming the first Republican to win the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary since 1976, Romney won a convincing first-place finish in the GOP primary Tuesday night and used his victory speech to condemn Obama for coming to New Hampshire four years ago promising hope and change but delivering instead what Romney cast as only failure.
"The last three years have held a lot of change, but they haven't offered much hope," Romney said. "The president has run out of ideas. Now, he's running out of excuses. And tonight, we are asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year he runs out of time."
But Romney has several hurdles to straddle before he can begin to take on the president. With the bar set so high for a victory in the Granite State, many pundits are not impressed by his 39 percent of the pie -- exactly where predictions placed him before the vote.
Even if he sweeps every election, he would not be able to wrap enough delegates until the end of April to lock the nomination.
And before getting there, Romney must endure being scraped by the sheaths of his primary opponents, who have borrowed much of the language of Democrats to target the candidate as a "predatory" Wall Street financier.
At the same time, Democrats are taking whatever opportunity they can to jab at the frontrunner.
Romney "thinks it's more important for the stockholders and the shareholders and the investors and the venture capital guys to do well than for those employees to be part of the bargain," Vice President Joe Biden said during a video teleconference with New Hampshire Democrats on Tuesday evening.
Biden defended Obama's record, saying the administration "inherited a mess" and "did what we had to do and we faced in the process an absolutely unified opposition dead set against every single thing we tried to do."
He added that Republicans ignore the "grand bargain that has allowed the middle class to prosper in the last century."
In response to the attacks by fellow GOPers, Romney has chided "desperate Republicans" who have "put free enterprise on trial" in the hopes of making gains in the GOP election.
"This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success," he said.
Noting that millions of Americans have seen their nest eggs disappear, Romney said many still hold on to the hope of a brighter future and the imagery of Ronald Reagan's shining city on a hill.
Romney pledged to return America to that greatness despite years of being sidetracked.
"If you want to make this election about restoring American greatness, then I hope you'll join us. If you believe that the disappointments of the last few years are a detour, not a destiny, then I'm asking for your vote," he said.
Laden with favorable comparisons of himself to his would-be general election opponent, Romney targeted Obama as someone who wants to "fundamentally transform" America and turn it "into a European-style entitlement society."
Romney pledged that he will make the federal government "simpler, smaller and smarter," reduce the national debt, eliminate regulations, repeal health care reform and restore the U.S. AAA credit rating. He added that on international issues, he will stand with friends like Israel, restore military dominance globally and "never apologize" for America's superiority.
"Our plans protect freedom and opportunity, and our blueprint is the Constitution of the United States," he said.
Responding to the Granite State results, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Romney may have won New Hampshire's GOP primary but he came up short of meeting expectations.
"What's more troubling for Mitt Romney is the fact that the premise of his candidacy is unraveling," Wasserman Schultz said. "He leaves here wounded by a series of episodes that made it clear to voters – both in New Hampshire and for those watching across the country – that he is completely out of touch with the concerns of America's working and middle-class families.
Wasserman Schultz said Romney "disingenuously claimed" that he has experienced the fear of being fired when he really hasn't and favors profit over people.
"He continues to call himself a job creator, but his accounts of creating 100,000 jobs at Bain Capital have been knocked down across the board," she said. "Even worse, as one of his colleagues said, he never considered what they did at Bain Capital as job creation. What they did was make a profit while companies were sometimes driven to bankruptcy, workers were laid off, and jobs were sent overseas."
But Romney said he's not in the race to lie to people and won't make pledges he can't keep.
"If this election is a bidding war for who can promise more benefits, then I'm not your president. You have that president today," he said.