Try as some might to deprecate it, there’s no denying that Mitt Romney’s smashing victory in the New Hampshire primary has firmly established him as the all-but inevitable Republican presidential nominee. The final tally raised Romney’s total of the vote to nearly 40 percent in a five-man race in the state and a 17-point margin of victory over his nearest competitor. Even more important, New Hampshire’s results re-emphasized the fact that there is no single viable conservative alternative to Romney. That puts him in an even stronger position than expected to romp to another victory next week in South Carolina.
That leaves disgruntled conservatives with a difficult decision. Though no one expects Romney’s opponents to roll over for him with so many states left to vote, the vicious attacks on Romney’s business career from Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have done as much to discredit them as the former head of Bain Capital. The spectacle of conservatives trying to sound like Occupy Wall Street protesters in order to smear Romney hasn’t hurt him so much as it has made them look ridiculous, especially when it is increasingly obvious that Romney is the only Republican running who can beat President Obama. In the coming weeks, conservatives must decide whether their unhappiness with Romney is enough to cause them to abandon their principles and to aid Democratic attacks on the man who will almost certainly be their party’s standard-bearer in November.
Newt Gingrich’s bubble burst weeks ago, but the after-shocks of his collapse are still being felt in the Republican race. By choosing to launch a bizarre attack on Mitt Romney from the left, Gingrich did little damage to the frontrunner but he managed to besmirch his already tattered image even further. After a disastrous showing in New Hampshire where he is battling Rick Santorum for the dubious distinction of finishing a distant fourth, Gingrich is now headed for an even more disappointing outcome in South Carolina.
Despite a massive infusion of funds from wealthy contributors, Gingrich has virtually no chance at this point of coming back and winning the nomination. Though he pledged to go on to South Carolina in a lackluster concession speech, all he can accomplish at this point is to further sabotage Rick Santorum’s meager hopes of becoming the sole conservative “non-Romney” in the race. Even more to the point, by continuing to echo leftist Occupy Wall Street smears of Romney’s business career, he will ensure that the legacy of his presidential campaign is that of a bitter loser who sought unsuccessfully to bring down the ultimate nominee.
Mitt Romney’s margin of victory in New Hampshire may have fallen short of his hopes and aspirations, but a double-digit win for the frontrunner must still be considered a major step toward the nomination. Given the dismal showing of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — the only candidates who might challenge him elsewhere in the country — after only two states have voted, it’s difficult to imagine that Romney will not be anointed as the GOP standard-bearer.
Romney’s critics on the right will, no doubt, try to downplay his sweep of Iowa and New Hampshire, but by winning both states, he’s done something no one would have expected him to do only a few weeks ago. Moreover, given his strong polling numbers among Republicans, the notion that the GOP base won’t stomach him as their nominee doesn’t have much credibility.
The networks have already declared Mitt Romney the winner of the New Hampshire primary, giving him an extraordinary sweep of the first two states to vote. Second place has also apparently been decided with the runner-up title going to libertarian extremist Ron Paul. That will keep Paul’s buzz up in the coming days, but it also means something else: the end of Jon Huntsman’s hopes for a breakout night in New Hampshire.
Huntsman bet everything on a huge showing in New Hampshire hoping that Democrats and independents would make him relevant. But a third place showing isn’t good enough. Of course, even if he had finished second it was difficult to see a path to contention for Huntsman, but a third place finish ensures that he is finished. Huntsman has enough of his father’s money in his pocket to go on campaigning as long as he likes, but defeat in New Hampshire means that this liberal’s idea of a conservative will soon fade from the spotlight.
Exit polls are reportedly showing that New Hampshire independents are splitting their votes between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. It’s no surprise that Paul would do well with this group because he has more appeal with them than with Republicans. The same is true for Jon Huntsman, who the polls show only a couple of points behind Paul among unaffiliated voters. But if the exit polls showing Romney picking up as many as 30 percent of independents are true, then he is heading for a big night. Because Romney is certain to win the Republican vote by a large margin, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t win the New Hampshire primary by a huge margin.
There aren’t many surprises to be found in today’s Suffolk University and Rasmussen polls, with Mitt Romney continuing to hold a formidable 20-point lead. The big news tonight will be exactly how wide of a margin Romney wins by. If he finishes with above 35 percent of the vote, he’ll be fine. If he ends up with much less than that, it will raise more questions about his ability to seal the deal with conservative voters. Here’s Rasmussen:
Romney earns 37 percent support, with Texas Congressman Ron Paul a distant second with 17 percent of the vote in the latest telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters taken Sunday night. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is now in third with 15 percent, up slightly from 12 percent late last week.
The Suffolk tracking poll has almost identical findings for the top three competitors. Meanwhile, Santorum and Gingrich are fighting it out for the fourth tier, coming in at 13 percent and 12 percent respectively in the Rasmussen poll, and 11 and 9 percent respectively in the Suffolk poll. Rick Perry has 1 percent in both surveys.
After months of campaigning, the Republican candidates face the voters in New Hampshire today. Though there’s little doubt Mitt Romney will finish first, there is plenty of uncertainty about his margin of victory and the order of finish. After being buffeted by harsh attacks in recent days, Romney’s hopes of maintaining his frontrunner status depends on a big win in New Hampshire. Though South Carolina is more of a do-or-die situation than New Hampshire for Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, a better or worse than expected performance will heavily impact their chances of surviving in the race. As for Jon Huntsman, the New Hampshire primary is his one and only shot at making a run at Romney. With that in mind, here is our handicap sheet for the expectations for each of the candidates:
Mitt Romney: He’s taken a pounding from his rivals in the last few days, and the “like to fire people” gaffe may also hurt him. Nevertheless, the last three New Hampshire polls show him ahead by anywhere from 17 to 24 points and getting 33 to 41 percent of the vote. That’s good news for the candidate, but the bar for Romney is set very high here. Anything less than 35-40 percent of the vote and a 10-point margin of victory will be construed as a defeat. On the other end of the spectrum, a Romney vote of over 40 percent with a lead of more than 15 percent in a six-candidate race will have to be seen as a sign of strength that will help give him the momentum in South Carolina to try for an unprecedented sweep of the first three states to vote. This race is Romney’s to lose, and New Hampshire is the state where he needs to start to prove his inevitability is no myth.
The question isn’t whether Mitt Romney will win tomorrow’s primary race in New Hampshire – he almost certainly will – but whether his margin of victory will be wide enough to meet the enormous expectations. His 10-point drop in the Suffolk University tracking poll over the past week isn’t a good sign:
Romney dropped 2 more percentage points overnight but still holds a 13-point lead at 33 percent. The former Massachusetts governor has dropped a full 10 points from five days ago, when he had 43 percent of likely GOP voters.
Romney is followed by Paul (20 percent), Jon Huntsman (13 percent), Newt Gingrich (11 percent) and Rick Santorum (10 percent), while Rick Perry and Buddy Roemer combined for 3 percent with 12 percent undecided.
Could the debates over the weekend have hurt Romney more than initially expected? On Friday, the Suffolk tracking poll had Romney at 40 percent, which means most of the 10-point drop happened over the weekend.
Going into Saturday night’s debate in New Hampshire, Rick Santorum’s rise might have made him the focal point of the event. Although he had a good night, the real story was the failure of any of his rivals to lay a glove on frontrunner Mitt Romney. Though the evening began with a brutal attack on Romney from Newt Gingrich, it fell flat. From then on, Romney cruised, and the night ended with him looking more like the inevitable nominee than ever.
Santorum sounded strong and confident and he also had help from Newt Gingrich that made the two of them look like a wrestling tag team. Nothing that happened tonight will interfere with his momentum, and he may well do better than expected in New Hampshire and set himself up for a good night next week in South Carolina. But the failure of the GOP field to successfully attack Romney will only strengthen his position as the man who looks like the eventual winner.
The debate ends: Winners: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich. Losers: Paul, Huntsman, Perry.
Gingrich and Santorum lose points by not knowing that they’re now playing football, not basketball. And the college championship isn’t being played now, guys.
Closing with yet another stupid question. Who cares what they’d be doing if they weren’t here.
Huntsman back to making nice with Beijing. It’s enough to provoke Romney into his first attack of the night when he reminds viewers that Huntsman was working for Obama while others were working to elect Republicans. Huntsman responds by using a Chinese phrase. Does he really think he’s gaining with this exchange?
Santorum denounces use of the term “middle class.” Says we are a country with middle income citizens and we shouldn’t use class to label people. Good moment for Santorum.
Gingrich wryly observes that Obama’s effort to create a European-style socialist economy is sincere. Good line. Then goes back to attacking Romney as a tepid alternative to Obama.
Rick Santorum has suddenly slipped back down to fourth place in New Hampshire, after comments he made about gay marriage leading to polygamy, according to a Suffolk University poll. The pollster cites Santorum’s drop in support among independents and young voters as the reason for his backslide:
Romney leads with 39%, followed by Ron Paul at 17%, Newt Gingrich at 10%, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman tied at 9%, and Rick Perry at 1%.
Key finding: “Santorum came under scrutiny at a campaign stop in Concord, N.H. earlier this week when he compared gay marriage to polygamy and admitted he did not know his medical marijuana laws very well. He was jeered for those answers by a predominately student audience. Overnight, his support dropped from 6 percent to 3 percent among undeclared (Independents) and also dropped from 9 percent to 2 percent among voters ages 18-34 years.”
First, we don’t know for sure whether the abrupt drop in support was based on Santorum’s gay marriage comments, but as the Suffolk poll points out, the timing seems to correspond with the polling. New Hampshire primary voters are expected to be more apathetic on social issues (outside of gun control) than Iowa caucus-goers. But if vocal opposition to gay marriage can now actually hurt Republican candidates with New Hampshire primary voters, then what does that say about the future of this issue?
Major League baseball gave up scheduled doubleheaders decades ago, but the Republican presidential contest is serving up what amounts to one this weekend on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. The remaining contenders will face off at 9 p.m., on Saturday night at Anselm College in Manchester. The same sextet will repeat the exercise less than 12 hours later on NBC’s “Meet the Press” at 9 a.m., on Sunday. But while some observers will be looking for signs of fatigue on the weary candidates, the main focus will be on two men: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
The pair were separated by only eight votes in the final results in Iowa this past Tuesday, and both are hoping for strong performances this weekend in order to maintain their momentum. Romney is a prohibitive favorite in New Hampshire and will, as he largely has done in the past, try to remain above the fray and concentrate his fire on President Obama. While Santorum is in no position to challenge Romney for the top spot in the Granite State, if he can somehow parlay the buzz about Iowa into a second place finish that would put him in a strong position for the crucial contest in South Carolina on January 15. That means he, and the rest of the field — and especially Newt Gingrich, who blames Romney for the collapse of his campaign — will probably be attacking Romney in the two debates. But Romney won’t be the only one in the crosshairs. Both Rick Perry and Ron Paul will likely concentrate their fire on Santorum as they try to keep him from turning the GOP battle into a two-man race.