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First in the Nation

January 11, 2012

by Andrew Parker

So, Mitt Romney has performed well in the New Hampshire Republican primary, winning with 40% of the vote. Considering some of his natural advantages, such as being the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts and so being highly familiar to voters in the state, it’s hardly a surprise. What I find interesting are the second and third place finishers and so forth. In particular I am wondering about how these contenders can influence future primary contests, and whether it is possible to deny Romney the nomination at this point.

Coming in second was Ron Paul, at 23%. What is amazing about his finish here is that it represents a tripling in support from 4 years ago. This could be owing to forces like the Free State Project, which seeks to concentrate libertarian leaning voters in New Hampshire, not to mention a growing libertarian mood in the country. It will be interesting to see how Paul does next time around (if he decides to run again, at age 80) or even a like-minded candidate. It really does seem as though Paul is running to promote his ideology rather than assume the presidency, which is perfectly fine. I think Paul’s perennial candidacy is only healthy for US democracy by breaking up the idea that the two party lines are the only ones.

Finishing third was Jon Huntsman, at 17%. Unfortunately this will probably be Huntsman’s high water mark. Though he seems to match Romney most closely in his political views, and so appealed greatly to some New Hampshire moderates, his lack of home advantage and some supposed lack of charisma relegated him to third. Hopefully his smart foreign policy will continue to influence a few voters in future contests.

Rounding out fourth and fifth were Gingrich and Santorum. Their socially conservative stances did not help them in New Hampshire, but may be popular in South Carolina and other conservative states. Their problem is that they divide the social conservative vote between them. To do well, one will have to drop out and endorse the other. After Iowa, it seemed that Gingrich would do just that, speaking well of Santorum and promising to metaphorically suicide-bomb Romney. If the anti-Romney attacks don’t begin soon, there may no hope for these two candidates and Romney may become as inevitable as John McCain was late in the 2008 primary cycle.

As for Rick Perry, well, he should probably save himself some money and drop out right now.

Anyway, on to South Carolina.

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