Trump wins N.H. primary

603596599JH00018_Donald_Tru
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at his election night watch party at the Executive Court Banquet facility on Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

HOOKSETT, N.H. - Donald Trump romped to a comfortable win in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary Tuesday, tapping what exit polls found was a deep vein of anger among an electorate yearning for an outsider.

Trump, with his nationalistic vows to crack down on illegal immigration and to "make America great again," had led the GOP race since he entered it in the summer, dominating for so long that the biggest suspense was who would finish second, third and even fourth in the crowded field.

The decisive Trump victory could restore some momentum to his campaign after a second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses undercut his boasts of "winning." As a primary state, New Hampshire does not put the same premium on a sophisticated ground organization and the evangelical voters who dominate GOP primaries in Iowa - and fueled Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's victory there - were not a factor here.

In his victory speech Tuesday, Trump thanked his family, told the voters, "I love you," and vowed as he has many times along the campaign trail: "We're going to start winning again."

The main fight on the Republican side was for the chance to emerge as the chief center-right alternative to Trump and Cruz. Some leaders and donors in the party's more moderate, pro-business factions are worried about their ascendance and want to coalesce around a candidate they feel would be more electable in November.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished in second place, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Cruz locked in a tight race for the middle. New Jersey Gov. Christie, who has staked his candidacy on New Hampshire, was running in sixth.

Trailing the pack were former tech CEO Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Bush spokesman Tim Miller said Kasich "ran a one-state campaign" in New Hampshire and doesn't have "a viable path" to the nomination.

All of them have talked about continuing on to the Feb. 20 GOP primary in South Carolina, but one or more could reassess their campaigns, depending on how they finish and how much money is left in the bank.

The polls were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., though some towns authorized by state law kept voting places open until 8 p.m.

It was not a delegate-rich contest, with just 23 at stake on the Republican side, out of 1,237 needed to win the nomination.

Instead, New Hampshire's power lies in the momentum it confers on winners (and those who do better than expected) and the blow it delivers to those who finish far behind or fall short of expectations in some way. Especially in the early states, the candidates are competing to show strength and organization to party activists and donors as much as to amass delegates.

Reflecting the state's perceptual import, campaigns and super PACs dominated television screens with an estimated $111 million in ads, and winding roads were clogged with candidates' rock-star buses and journalists' rental cars.

tfitzgerald@phillynews.com

215-854-2718

@tomfitzgerald

www.philly.com/bigtent

The Associated Press contributed to this report.