But as the win margin dropped from 14 to 8, a bit of nervous humor set in as the group made its way into the media filing room to watch the results formally announced on the large TV screen.

“A win is a win,” one aide kept repeating to nobody in particular.

But a single-digit victory over the cash-strapped Santorum was not the result Romney himself expected and he had to scrap his planned victory speech as the vote counting went on. Romney aides hastily removed his teleprompter from the stage and the candidate, surrounded by his wife and four of his sons, gave a rushed version of his stump speech.

Asked about Santorum’s “bold ideas and sharp contrasts line,” Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom only said: “We’ll see him in New Hampshire.”