New Hampshire: Results

Jon Stewart:  "When is somebody going to kick Mitt Romney in the balls?"

Dear Reader,

     Former Governor Romney, to the surprise of no one, won the New Hampshire primary election.  That is, to answer Jon Stewart's question: "not this week."  The results gave Romney a clear victory:

Mitt Romney: 38%

Ron Paul: 24%

Jon Huntsman: 17%

Rick Santorum: 10%

Newt Gingrich: 10%

Rick Perry: 1%

The exact figures may change since the vote count is not yet complete, but the basic storyline will not.  Romney did well enough to claim not just a symbolic victory but a real one:  with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, who will stop him from getting the nomination?  Mitt Romney had a seven point lead over Newt Gingrich, who was in second place, in South Carolina as of January 8th.  (In another recent poll, Romney had a slight lead over Rick Santorum.)  Romney now has the money, the establishment backing, two wins, leads in the polls, and "the inevitability argument."

The winner was never in doubt; even in the last few days, other candidates tried to play the expectations game over who would get second place.  Instead, the doubts are about other questions:  will the results push out any of the remaining candidates?  If Ron Paul is not nominated, what will happen?  And how much damage will be done, and has been done, to Mitt Romney?  

In the last week, and certainly the last few days, the Republican race has seemed increasingly "bitter."  Huntsman plans to stay in the race, despite no showing at all in Iowa and a distant third place in New Hampshire.  Rick Santorum also says he is staying in the race; he "brushed off" his 10% finish.  Rick Perry may not have been impressed by his 1% showing but he also is not impressed with Romney's 38% finish either.  Ron Paul is not giving up, either.  And, of course, Newt Gingrich is carrying on the war with Romney as well.  So, at least as of tonight, everyone is marching on to South Carolina, to wage the war of words again.

It seems likely that Ron Paul will not win the Republican nomination.  Still, without doubt, he finished very well in New Hampshire.  A score of 24% is not bad at all; in 2008, he only got 8%.  Of course, part of the difference is that New Hampshire has an 'open' primary (really, it is technically a 'semi-closed' primary, but that is neither here nor there); in 2008, many of the nonpartisan voters wanted to participate in the Obama-Clinton race.  This year, with President Obama as the only real Democratic candidate, more of the independent voters may have decided to participate in the Republican primary.  Paul's campaign thinks independent voters are an important part of his coalition; he likely benefited from the absence of an exciting Democratic race. 

All the same, 24% in New Hampshire and 21% in Iowa is a real show of support for Ron Paul.  This is a real problem for the Republican party; since he is sufficiently different than the other candidates, the party may not be able to hold onto those voters in the general election if he is not on the ticket.  He says he is not planning to run as a third party candidate if he does not get the nomination but he will not rule it out either.  A split in the Republican party would help the Democrats, as it did in 1912.  Even without a Paul third party run, it is not clear what his supporters will do (stay home, vote for President Obama, etc. etc.) in the general election. 

Lastly, while Mitt Romney won the primary, his rivals did their best to damage him.  The AP reported:

"Romney fashioned his victory despite a sustained assault by rivals eager to undermine his claim as the contender best situated to beat Obama and help reduce the nation's painfully high unemployment. Gingrich led the way, suggesting at one point that Romney, a venture capitalist, was a corporate raider. The front-runner's defenders said the rhetoric was more suitable to a Democratic opponent than a conservative Republican."

Indeed, the attack on Romney's business dealings was a great surprise from Newt Gingrich, once described as a "forceful [advocate] for supply-side economics and the value of free enterprise."  Mitt Romney did have a surprising defender, Ron Paul, who said, "[the other Republican candidates] are either just demogoging or they don’t have the vaguest idea how the market works."  The attacks against Romney focus on his time at Bain; without bothering too much with the details, the basic storyline (as explained by Ron Paul) is that he bought companies that were going bankrupt and reorganized them (and, in the process, had to fire some people).  Nevertheless, the quotations from Romney's republican rivals will undoubtedly show up in campaign ads before November; with none of his rivals dropping out (as of tonight), the Republican race will only generate more of these remarks in the future.

Lastly, the Obama family is the subject of a new book by a White House reporter.  The book raises an interesting point:  who are these people, that work so hard, to get this insane job?  A job where you have to live in a house that is also an office building and a museum.  A job where you and your family no longer have any privacy at all.  A job where, no matter how hard you try, a large segment of the population will not appreciate your effort just because you happen to disagree.  A job where people say incredibly nasty things about you, poke fun at you on late night tv shows, and twist everything you say.  A job where periodically people threaten your life.  A job that has 24 hours a day responsibilites for at least four, and possibly eight, years.  A job where you can no longer just go out and take a walk, or go get a cup of coffee, or spend an afternoon looking around in a bookstore.   

So, to get back to Jon Stewart's question: if nobody kicked Mitt Romney in the balls this week, and he goes on to eventually become President --- I'm pretty confident that somewhere along the line, he'll get some pretty hard kicks.

Regards,

--- Stag Staff

Articles:

The Hill

The Politico

The AP