So the “first in the nation” primary is over, with a few minor surprises.
With 95% of precincts reporting, Romney received 40% of the vote in Tuesday’s balloting. Texas Rep. Ron Paul received 23% and former Utah Gov. and U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman garnered 17%.
Romney’s sweep of the first two contests for the GOP nomination made history. It was the first time a non-incumbent Republican won both the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum came in with 10% and 9%, respectively, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry had 1%.
Romney was expected to win convincingly, but 40% is more solid of a victory than most would have predicted. Ron Paul’s second place finish may come as a surprise to some who expected Rick Santorum to do well after a near tie with Romney in Iowa, but he dropped to a disappointing fifth behind Paul, Jon Huntsman, and Newt Gingrich. Rick Perry finished dead last with 1%.
The race now moves to South Carolina without any attrition. If Romney manages another solid victory there the race may effectively be over, which absurd just two states in, but that is the “conventional wisdom.” The more practical part of that CW is that Huntsman’s continuing in the race was predicated on a strong New Hampshire finish and he didn’t break 20%, so people are a bit confused why he insists on heading to South Carolina, where Southerners Gingrich and Perry would seem to have a much stronger chance. For Perry, South Carolina is more than likely “do or die” as it is for Huntsman and Santorum.
Gingrich and Perry can also expect to see some of their support dry up in the wake of attacking Romney on Bain Capital, in attacks that sound to the layman like an attack on capitalism. I know that both campaigns will insist that they are going after the worst aspects of corporate raiders that dismantle companies and fire people for a profit, but that isn’t a fair representation of all that private equity companies do, and they know it. By invoking such petty, seemingly leftist talking points they’ve proven themselves to be men that aren’t as conservative as they’ve claimed to be, and in so do diminished their main selling points.
South Carolina is going to be “do or die” for most of the GOP candidates, who will run out of funding if they finish poorly in the Palmetto State. Somehow, we stand to be represented by a guy who could beat the last guy that Obama trounced in the previous election, and that does not fill me with hope.