The New Hampshire primary ended last night with Mitt Romney comfortably coming in first place. His lead of 40,000 votes above the runner-up, Ron Paul, was still lower than some expected in what is essentially Romney’s back-yard, and is seen as leaving the race open for the future.
Jon Huntsman came in third place, while new Gingrich and Rick Santorum are within 250 votes for fourth, with 95 per cent of precincts reporting.
The reaction of most outlets to the results was to shift focus to South Carolina, as Wonkette noted:
10:50 - We are already talking about South Carolina now, since New Hampshire sucks. Oh look, non-candidate teevee comedian Stephen Colbert is polling ahead of Jon Hunstman among gullible twits, make a surprised face!
Talking Points Memo also looked ahead, reporting:
Things are unlikely to get any friendlier in South Carolina, a state that’s hosted some of the ugliest primary fights in recent memory.
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson is donating $5 million to a pro-Newt Super PAC that’s planning to run a short film skewering Romney’s Bain career in the harshest possible way.
And Rick Perry, who did not compete in New Hampshire this week, is already previewing plenty of rough attacks of his own, referring to Bain Capital as a “vulture“on Tuesday.
Second place for Ron Paul is worth addressing, however. Is he merely the latest “anyone but Romney” candidate, or does this mark his grassroots campaign picking up steam?
The New York Times thinks the former:
Even if political analysts continue to regard the libertarian-leaning Mr. Paul as a protest candidate, with no shot at the nomination, his success here — on top of a third-place finish last week in the Iowa caucuses - means he will probably continue his campaign for months and perhaps to the summer convention.
Despite Mr. Paul’s strong showing, it is clear that he will have a hard time repeating that success, at least in the next two primaries.
They also address Huntsman’s position:
The other story in New Hampshire was Mr. Huntsman, who did much better here than the single digits he showed in national polls, benefiting from his sole focus on the state.
But with the Republican nominating contest moving to South Carolina, Mr. Huntsman faces a steep challenge, with little organization in the state and no personal connection to the voters. His moderate views also mean that he has an uphill battle in a Southern state with many conservative Christian voters and Tea Party members.
Ron Paul supporters have been claiming for quite some time of a media conspiracy against him. While such fears are unfounded, it is certainly clear that his support doesn’t fit in an easy narrative.
Reading the two NYT excerpts above, for instance, one could be forgiven for thinking that he was lagging behind Huntsman, rather than beating him comfortably in both the races so far. Being pigeonholed as a fringe candidate before the race began has led to the reporting not keeping pace with his success.
It seems certain, however, that both Paul and Huntsman will drop out sooner rather than later, so these questions may be academic.
Finally, Santorum did as badly as was expected; New Hampshire was never going to be his base, and although fourth place is still possible, it won’t be particularly cheering for him.
His newly energised campaign continues trying to undo the damage of some of his earlier remarks, as Think Progress reports:
GOP contender Rick Santorum continues to try to explain away a racist welfare rant in which he said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better” through government aid.
Santorum appeared to acknowledge he made the remarks in an interview with CBS shortly after the original comment. But after being roundly criticized, he backtracked and claimed he said “blah” people, not “black.”
Santorum’s latest explanation is that what sounded like “black people” was actually the garbled word “plives”.
You can decide for yourself if this explanation adds up:
• The World Outside Westminster – Romney set for New Hampshire landslide - Tom Rouse, January 8th 2012
• After Iowa: Bloodied Romney on course for nomination as Obama smiles - Marcus Roberts, January 4th 2012
• Iowa 2012: Meet the candidates - Chris Tarquini, January 3rd 2012
• Get ready for USA 2012: Here are the five best videos from 2011 - Left Foot Forward, January 1st 2012
• Rick Perry doesn’t understand logic - Alex Hern, December 8th 2011