Last night was simply a great night for Mitt Romney. The New Hampshire primary almost couldn’t have gone better for him.
Romney won the state by a huge double digit margin over his nearest rival. He ended up with roughly 40 percent of the vote, right in line with polling and expectations, which suggests his “I like being able to fire people” gaffe didn’t cause much damage in New Hampshire.
This strong win gives Romney two back-to-back victories and allows him to head to South Carolina with renewed momentum.
With 96% precincts reporting
Mitt Romney 39.4%
Ron Paul 22.8%
Jon Huntsman 16.8%
Newt Gingrich 9.4%
Rick Santorum 9.3%
Rick Perry 0.7%
How the rest of the field ended up finishing in New Hampshire was almost as good for the Romney campaign as his own victory.
If Jon Huntsman or Rick Santorum had managed to take a strong second place, there would have been two media narratives coming out of New Hampshire. The spin would have been about whether that candidate who took a strong second was going to become the “anti-Romney alternative.” Instead Ron Paul took second. While Paul clearly has a strong base of support, he is unacceptable to the vast majority of the party. Most people don’t think he can ever become the nominee. So the story today is all about Romney’s big win.
Jon Huntsman is characterizing his distant third as good enough to keep him in the race. But in the state where he had primarily focused his campaign, it was too weak for most people to take him seriously.
Finally Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum managed a weak near tie for fourth place, which is ideal for Romney. If one of them had done much better than the other, it might have convinced one of them to drop out. Similarly, it could have signaled to anti-Romney voters which of the two candidates they should think about rallying around. With them basically tying that greatly increases the odds they end up splitting the vote in South Carolina, thus helping Romney get a plurality victory.
On almost every level the New Hampshire primary turned out great for the Romney campaign.