New Hampshire was Boring; South Carolina Should be Exciting
After the nailbiter that was the Iowa GOP caucus, the New Hampshire Primary was relatively uneventful. The results jived with most prognostications, no candidates withdrew, and it’s on to the next one. South Carolina, a far more conservative state, and a traditional killing field in Republican primaries, is up next. In 2000 Bush unleashed a harsh whisper campaign against John McCain, which alleged among other things that McCain had fathered a black child. One shudders to think about the harsh attacks that will begin to percolate in the coming days.
Mitt Romney is certainly happy with his showing last night, he received 20,000 more votes than in 2008, and raised his share of the percentage about 8%. He was quick to note that he’s the first non-incumbent to win both the Iowa and New Hampshire contests. But Romney’s success here was expected, and he faces a tougher terrain in South Carolina. Romney did pick up an unlikely ally in Ron Paul, who’s attacked both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as Washington insiders, and defended Romney from attacks over his record at Bain Capital. Paul sees such attacks as running counter to the spirit of unfettered capitalism, and at this point Romney surely appreciates the kind words.
At this point the only thing that seems able to stop the Romney juggernaut is if the Santorum, Perry, Gingrich crowd can choose a candidate to coalesce around. Gingrich has a great deal of money and has already made large ad buys in South Carolina. Perry abandoned the New Hampshire primary to focus on South Carolina. And Santorum’s family values message should play far better in South Carolina than in libertarian New Hampshire. All these candidates can expect to do fairly well here, I’d estimate their likely support at around 20%, but if Romney can beat them, which seems fairly likely, he’ll be tough to stop.
Gingrich is seemingly only in the campaign to attack Romney, but he’s likely made the calculation that if he can emerge as the last man standing he could have success against Romney. It’s going to come down to a battle between his ego and his hatred for Romney, because as long as he stays in the race he fractures some of the anti-Romney vote. The same goes for Perry and Santorum. At this point it seems Santorum is the only candidate who hasn’t been tarnished by this campaign, and would seem the likely candidate to emerge as the anti-Romney. However, his support for Bush-era big government policies and his extreme anti-gay rhetoric, may make him a tough sell as an electable Republican. Perry, Gingrich, and Santorum are all splitting the same pool of support, allowing Romney to skate through with pluralities.
One notable thing is that in contrast to a GOP that seems to have an enthusiasm advantage over the Democrats, they saw only about 15,000 more voters than in 2008, and about 40,000 less than the Democrats saw that same year. The number is even less impressive when one considers that New Hampshire has a fairly open primary process, where Democrats and Independents can vote in the Republican primary. Combined with a myriad of polls showing the GOP unimpressed with the crop of candidates, it seems the GOP doesn’t have an overwhelming enthusiasm advantage.
(photo courtesy of Politico)
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