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Romney gets McCain’s nod, jets to N.H.
Republican presidential candidate,  Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at Valley High School, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during his caucus night rally as his wife Callista looks on in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., greets her supporters after speaking at her caucus party at the Marriott in West Des Moines after finishing sixth in the Iowa Caucuses Tuesday night Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Justin Hayworth,The Des Moines Register)
Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum addresses supporters at his Iowa caucus victory party Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is joined by his wife Karen as he waves to supporters at his Iowa caucus victory party Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses supports with his family behind him during a Romney for President Iowa Caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney reaches for a supporters as his wife Ann looks one during a Romney for President Iowa Caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hugs his wife Ann during a Romney for President Iowa Caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, each collected almost a fourth of the vote. The Iowa GOP said Romney got 30,015 votes, to 30,007 for Santorum.

Romney shrugged off the promise of sharper criticism from his GOP rivals and Obama’s re-election team now that he’s narrowly affirmed his front-runner status.

"I’ve got a big target on me now," he said Wednesday, adding that it doesn’t faze him. "I’ve got broad shoulders. I’m willing to handle it."

Fourth-place finisher Newt Gingrich got the attacks off to a quick start, saying the Iowa caucus results show "three out of four Republicans repudiated Mitt Romney. How can you take seriously somebody after that kind of campaign?"

Romney, who finished second in Iowa in 2008 despite a costly effort, campaigned across the state in the closing days of the race, running as a conservative businessman with the skills to fix the economy.

Santorum, Gingrich, Perry and Bachmann argued persistently that Romney wasn’t nearly conservative enough on the economy and social issues such as abortion and had vied for months to emerge as the alternative.

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Romney is heavily favored in New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary, with contests in South Carolina and Florida packed into the final weeks of the month.

Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who finished a distant sixth, announced in Iowa that "I have decided to stand aside."

Bachmann, who was born in Iowa, had won the state’s GOP straw poll last summer before plummeting in the polls. Her loss there was devastating. Bachmann said she had run to counter what she called Obama’s "socialist policies" and would continue her fight to overturn his health care plan.

Perry, the governor of Texas, told supporters after his fifth-place finish that he was reconsidering his campaign. But Wednesday he announced via Twitter that he was still in the running: "And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State. ... Here we come South Carolina!!!."

Romney portrayed himself as the best foil to Obama and said he had the national campaign team and ample fundraising needed to endure the march to the GOP convention this summer. "That’s something I think other folks in this race are going to find a little more difficult to do," he predicted. Romney did interviews on all three network TV morning shows Wednesday.

On his campaign plane bound for New Hampshire, a grinning Romney told reporters he’d spoken to all his rivals except Gingrich Tuesday night and had gotten only two hours of sleep.

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