As expected, Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary, making him the first Republican presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since New Hampshire became the first in the nation primary in 1976. That’s the good news for Mitt. Now, the rest of the story…
1. No surprises, no thrills. Romney appears to be headed for a good win, but by no means a great one. He’s still under 40 percent of this posting — the same level John McCain got in New Hampshire in 2008 and about 6 percentage points better than Romney did back then — and even if he hits that magic number, he does so in a state he was always supposed to win (he was the governor next door.) Had Romney rocked the house, say, with 50 percent or better, he’d look like a stronger likely nominee tonight. As It stands, the turnout doesn’t look like its going to be overwhelming, and Romney is probably very happy to be above 25 percent (even if it is in the least conservative primary he’s going to face in the early going.)
South Carolina is going to be the last stand for movement conservatives, but it’s not clear that they have the discipline to put aside their differences and combine into the kind of collective force that can stop Mitt from at least squeaking through in South Carlina. By the way, the likelihood is growing every day — particularly if conservatives are let down again in Carolina — that Romney will feel compelled to name what Chris Matthews would call a “red hot” — think Sarah Palin 2008. — to be his base mollifying running mate. Fear the future.
2. Mitt’s 99 percent coalition. So far, exit polls show Romney’s voters were the elderly, independents (who made up 47 percent of primary voters – nearly matching the 49 percent registered Republicans)… people whose main concern is the economy, tea partiers (read: elderly) and rich people. Not exactly the working class white voters the GOP has become increasingly dependent on, but hey, that’s New Hampshire. However, Romney’s shtick about “envying success”may not go down as well as he thinks among people outside his relatively well off core supporters. A lot of blue collar white folks have felt burned by crony capitalist slicksters, too. Not saying they’d vote for Barack Obama, but Romney is going to need a better answer for the House of Bain revelations than President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial, and so do my opponents.
3. Newt and Perry may have miscalculated. Hitting Romney on his corporate raiding at Bain may have made great TV, and the Obama campaign team surely enjoyed it (plus as I said, there are basers who believe the crony capitalists are just as much to blame as The Obama for their woes…) but as a way to win over movement conservatives, the strategy of calling Romney’s venture capital firm a bunch of vultures and corporate raiders could prove to be a mistake, and could wind up being unhelpful to the Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich campaigns. Sure, regular Joes will relate to the message and it could sour them on Mitt, but the attacks failed to stop Mitt in New Hampshire — even with tea partiers — didn’t help Newt at all (nor did the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, and that’s gotta smart…) and may have alienated Newt and Perry from conservative opinion leaders otherwise in a position to bolster either candidate for the next big contest to come, in South Carolina. Seeming to be “against capitalism” is no way to make friends with Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. All these attacks are doing are giving the talk radio gadfly crowd and excuse to flip flop into Willard’s arms.
4. Jon Huntsman is done. This has always been true, but it can’t be said enough. Now that Hunts got beaten in the one state he really campaigned in … By Ron Paul, maybe my media friends will stop dreaming that dream and let Captain Beefheart go.
5. The only real anti-Romney candidate is Ron Paul. As loopy as Paul can sound — especially during his “victory” speaches … jeesh, just the nervous, “put me on my meds” laugh alone … and despite his obvious, serious, and downright creepy flaws (helloooo, Woolworth’s lunch counter!…) he remains the only Republican presidential candidate with a significant constituency that’s distinct from Romney’s. Mitt beat two Catholic candidates — Gingrich and Santorum – among New Hampshire Catholics; he won tea partiers and indies, and he’s still got those old folks and rich people. The other candidates simply don’t have enough of any of those groups to pose a real threat at this point. The one who might have: Perry, is looking like dust in the wind. BTW, there’s a third party opportunity for Paul in November if he wants it. Now the only question is, does he want it, or would he rather try to influence the platform and pave the way for Rand.