Cable-news pundits rejoiced a week ago when Rick Santorum drew Mitt Romney into an essential tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses. For all the ups and downs throughout the fall, this election has been inherently boring. Until Iowa, Romney had inched along unremarkably to the general election while a rotating group of talking heads ran nominal presidential campaigns in order to boost their fees on the lecture circuit.
Yesterday, I speculated that the traditional dynamic of the early states weeding out the also-ran candidates could be upended this cycle by the increased reliance on debates and super PACs. Last night, Mitt Romney won a resounding victory, yet no candidates are rushing to exit stage left this morning. In fact, all have packed up their bags to head south, either to South Carolina or Florida.
Mitt Romney's march to the GOP nomination became even more likely last night after he thumped everybody else in the New Hampshire primary. Now the guesswork turns to South Carolina with the campaign press cadre picking up their bags and hopping on the next flights to Charleston and Columbia. But the bigger prize comes later in the month when Florida's 50 delegates are doled out.
Mitt Romney took another big step toward the Republican nomination on Tuesday night.
Romney was expected to cruise to victory in New Hampshire—but even the former Massachusetts governor probably didn’t anticipate giving a victory speech at 8:25 p.m. With the early returns matching the latest polls, with Romney leading Ron Paul by double digits and more than doubling the vote for Jon Huntsman, there was no Iowa-style drama in his unofficial home state. The call was made early. And Romney, beaming in front of his toothy family while the crowd chanted “Mitt Mitt Mitt Mitt,” was clearly pleased with the orderly nature of things.
New Hampshire voters are justly famous for pitchforking presidential frontrunners—LBJ in 1968, Walter Mondale in 1984, Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008 all had their paths to nomination gummed up by the famous contrarians of Yankeedom. Could it happen to Mitt Romney tonight?
Last time we checked in on South Carolina, Mitt Romney was leading with a healthy margin over his competitors, including former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Since then, the ground has shifted, but just a bit. According to the latest poll from We Ask America, Romney leads with 26 percent support, followed by 21 percent for Newt Gingrich, 13 percent for Rick Santorum, 8 percent for Ron Paul, and 5 percent for Rick Perry.
Republicans have allocated just 40 delegates between Iowa and New Hampshire. In terms of the math, neither state is essential to boosting the candidates to the required 1,144 delegates. Rather, the first two states of the GOP nomination contest have traditionally winnowed the field in years; finishing near the bottom of the pack pushes the candidates off the front page of newspapers, and fickle donors flee to spend their dollars on a more likely winner.
At the back-to-back debates in New Hampshire last weekend, it looked as though Mitt Romney's challengers had been consigned to defeat. As Huntsman, Paul, and Santorum jockeyed for second place, Romney could have joined Perry on the side of the stage for a nap.
But that's not the case now. Realizing that South Carolina may be their last stand, the other candidates are exploiting every chance to slow down Romney’s momentum as the race moves south.
All eyes are on New Hampshire today as voters in the Granite State head to the first primary in the Republican nomination contest. Unlike the maddeningly slow trickle-in of the results in the Iowa caucuses last week, we should know the winner soon after the polls close tonight. Mitt Romney has held a dominating lead in the polls all year, and though his numbers have dipped slightly over the past few days, it's unlikely that he will place anything other than first—election sage Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight puts the likelihood of Romney winning New Hampshire at a whopping 98 percent.
Without issuing an explanation, yesterday the Supreme Court upheld a federal law banning resident aliens from making campaign contributions. It is regrettable but perhaps telling that the Court chose not to explain why it agreed with the lower court: The case reveals obvious problems with its penchant for First Amendment absolutism in campaign-finance cases, most notably its decision in Citizens United.
I wish I could come up with a pithy name for the particular type of faux-scandal that erupted yesterday over Mitt Romney saying "I like being able to fire people", the "That inartful thing our opponent said actually reveals his innermost being" ridiculousness. When you put it that way, it shows just how absurd it is. Just what is it that Mitt Romney's opponents are now trying to persuade us to believe? That what we knew about Romney before yesterday was incomplete, but with this latest statement, the mask slipped and Romney showed his true self. And now we know!
DERRY, NEW HAMPSHIRE—Newt Gingrich is a master of Stalinist history. In the New Hampshire campaign’s closing days, he made much of his own role in the job creation of the Reagan and Clinton years (though he never mentioned Clinton by name) and contrasted himself with his rivals by touting his ability to reach across the aisle during Clinton’s presidency. As Gingrich recounted it to a crowd of 300 gathered in a high-school auditorium in Derry late yesterday afternoon, he and Clinton both “concluded very early on that we really wanted to get together to do something for the country.” They would meet privately, he said, while bashing each other publicly.
Of all the bizarre aspects of the Republican presidential race—and they have been gloriously plentiful—nothing has been odder than the kid-glove treatment accorded the likeliest nominee. While every other pretender, from Donald Trump to Rick Santorum, has had his record and rhetoric parsed and pilloried, Mitt Romney has sailed through months (heck, years) of campaigning and oodles of debates without so much as a nick or scratch. Until now. Sunday’s New Hampshire debate featured memorable smackdowns by Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich.