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.
Thanks to the array of options to watch TV online, I don't bother paying for cable at my home in DC. But I've been able to reacquaint myself with the hyperbole of cable news as I've been on the road reporting. This morning I learned of Mitt Romney's "breaking news" flub from MSNBC. At a morning stop in New Hampshire, Romney said, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me." With increased attention being paid to Mitt Romney's time buying and selling companies, now might not be the best moment to revel in handing out pink slips.
Hours later, Jon Hunstman has already incorporated the line into his attacks on Romney and the DNC was quick to push out this video clip:
After largely ignoring Mitt Romney during Saturday's debate in New Hampshire, the Republican candidates have started attacking the front-runner where it hurts most: his economic résumé. A new 28-minute television advertisement focusing on Romney's time at Bain Capital has the most potential to hurt the candidate given that the former governor touts his experience there as indicative of his ability to fix the U.S. economy. Newt Gingrich-supporting Super PAC "Winning Our Future" produced the film. The advertisement strikes back at Romney's $3.7 million-worth of negative, anti-Gingrich advertising in Iowa, which effectively ruined the former speaker's end-of-the-year momentum.
Mitt Romney's pitch to voters relies heavily on his executive experience. He doesn't spend much time dwelling on his time as the chief executive of Massachusetts (a more fitting selling point for someone seeking the presidency) but rather concentrates on his experience in the private sector as chief executive at Bain Capital. Romney claims himself to be a "job creator." "In the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs," he said over the weekend.
Campaign reporting isn't easy. It has to be done quickly - filing stories every day, or in some cases multiple times a day, around repetitive and artificial events at which not much happens. Today, Mitt Romney went to a diner in Nashua, where he repeated the same talking points he delivered to people in a diner in Portsmouth yesterday, where he delivered the same talking points he delivered to people in a diner in Manchester the day before ... It's awfully difficult to come up with a "take" on the nonsense of campaigning that will be remotely interesting to your audience.