Mitt Romney shrugged off allegations from his rivals of ever-shifting policy stances to win the New Hampshire primary.
He remains in the driving seat to be the Grand Old Party’s choice to take on Obama in November.
In his victory speech, Romney attacked Obama’s record after four years in office.
“The president has run out of ideas. Now, he’s running out of excuses”, he told supporters. “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.”
Romney finished well ahead of second-placed Ron Paul, a Texas congressman who advocates trimming government spending and limiting US military intervention abroad. Former US diplomat Jon Huntsman came third.
Romney faces a greater challenge in South Carolina. His centrist reputation from his days as governor of Massachusetts may cost him votes in the deeply conservative state.