Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Hampshire - The Aftermath

Good day all!

Mitt Romney, as I (and anyone with a brain) expected, won the New Hampshire primary last night. Ho-hum.

Here's what no one is telling you. Mitt Romney UNDERPERFORMED. That's right, he didn't do as well as he needed to do to solidify himself as the consensus candidate. What is clear is that he won. He dominated the election and won a majority of registered Republicans voting in the open primary. He did poorly among independents and democrats voting in the primary and did not significantly increase his support from 2008. All of this tells us what I've been trying to tell you on this blog: Mitt Romney is not going anywhere, he simply has a large base of support. Oh, it's very large, I admit. Large enough to win a Republican nomination, but not nearly enough to expect any outcome other than getting completely crushed in the general election. Republicans better start asking themselves if this is the guy they REALLY want to beat Obama. Maybe it is. Maybe they don't mind Obama after all, considering they're throwing their weight behind the Republican clone of Obama.

It's interesting to note that the large base of support for Romney IS mostly republicans. As of this writing, Glenn Beck's lackeys and Rush Limbaugh are falling all over themselves to praise Romney for his speech last night. They make no mention that much of what he said, he obviously doesn't believe. To those who pay attention, much of Romney's words seem strange in light of his affiliations, actions, and past statements.

This is quickly becoming a party that has a hard time differentiating itself from the Democrats. The Democrats love Barrack Obama. The Republicans love Mitt Romney. You tell me the difference.

Also, as expected, Ron Paul finished in second place. What was not expected was how well Ron Paul did. Coming into the day, Paul was falling in the polls. He was estimated to finish with around 17% and some polls even had Paul finishing third behind Huntsman who was supposedly "surging". Instead, Ron Paul became the clear cut second place finisher with less of a margin between he and Romney than was expected, and a sizable lead over Jon Huntsman.

In other words, Ron Paul did surprisingly well and as a result has a tremendous amount of momentum going to the South. The next two primaries will be interesting. Paul is not polling well. He is well behind people who did way worse than him in New Hampshire and Iowa. The Paul campaign needs to make some moves. They need to have "surprising" finishes in South Carolina and Florida. They need to maintain their momentum.

Third place was Jon Huntsman. Huntsman has poured MONTHS, and almost all of his money, into New Hampshire. He moved his national campaign headquarters to New Hampshire in an effort to plant his flag in the state. And he finished in third place with most of his support coming from Democrats. Jon Huntsman said all of the right things about this being a slingshot to the south (where he's struggling for a single percentage point in every poll) but I've got news for the former Obama ambassador: It's over.

Fourth place was a virtual tie between Gingrich and Santorum. Gingrich has had two completely terrible performances. He's done and should have already dropped out. The problem is that he's on a mission to destroy Romney. He'll stick around a while, continue to disappoint in the polls and eventually fade into the sunset. As for Santorum, he can't compete in states like New Hampshire where there aren't a heavy amount of Evangelical Christians and social conservatives to rally behind him ("WHY" they rally behind him is anyone's guess).

Rounding out the field was Rick Perry whom many were surprised to learn still believes he can win the nomination. Bye bye Rick.

So what did we learn? Well one thing that we learned was that none of the candidates, outside of Romney and Paul, can compete on the two spectrums of the Republican party. Iowa is a social conservative haven, Romney and Paul finished first and third respectively. New Hampshire is home of the Rockefeller Republicans, Romney and Paul finished 1 & 2. No one else can claim this.

The question then becomes, can Ron Paul continue this trend in a place like South Carolina, dominated by the Evangelical right, and Florida, dominated by the aging and government dependent pseudo-conservatives. He needs to find a way. If he can, he goes on to be THE alternative to Romney. If not, he's another among the pack that wish they could beat Romney.

Some final observations:

  • Romney is running a "play not to lose campaign". His speech is highly polished, sound bite ready, and designed to be a rehearsed event. He knows he's ahead and doesn't want to make THE mistake that will be exploitable enough to make him vulnerable.

  • Paul has a lot of negatives and a lot of positives to the average Republican. I watched CNN last night and was fascinated by the instant focus group analysis they had running during the speeches (great chants by his supporters, by the way). Paul had the highest highs and the lowest lows during his speech. The highs? Ending the Fed, talking about freedom, and his jabs at the main stream media. The lows? All foreign policy.

  • No one in South Carolina, according the to the CNN focus group, was at all interested in Santorum, Gingrich, or Huntsman. The dial didn't move one way or the other for a bulk of their speeches.

  • Someone needs to challenge Romney on his record. Frankly someone needs to challenge ALL of them. The primary has become about mud slinging and demographics. It's stopped being about ideas. Someone needs to go into these debates and say "I promise to do 'this and this and this'. Why won't you guys make a similar promise?" and then point out that their records show why. Only one guy, really, has that kind of leverage. The question is. . . will he use it?

I hope so.

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