The dust has settled and after a full year as the frontrunner in New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Primary, Mitt Romney won a convincing victory capturing an impressive 39% of the vote.
No candidate for President, since Ronald Reagan in 1980, began the race as the early favorite and went on to win the New Hampshire primary. This isn’t just a testament to Mitt Romney’s strength, however, it is also an illustration of the inability for other campaigns to catch fire and compete with the Romney juggernaut. Every time one of the other candidates, Gingrich in particular due to his support of the powerful Union Leader newspaper, rose dramatically in the polls the Romney campaign used their machine to beat them back down.
Let’s break it down by each campaign in order of their placement in yesterday’s Primary.
The numbers inside the numbers are what tell the story of Mitt Romney’s strength in New Hampshire. While he ended up with 39% statewide it was the scores that he ran up along the Massachusetts border towns, which represent the voter rich Republican communities in the state, that were most impressive. Look at his top ten towns:
Hampton Falls 55% (Hello John H. Sununu!)
Wolfeboro 52% (Summer White House?)
Exit poll data also shows the Romney strength across all demographics. Among Republican voters Romney swamped every other candidate with 48% of the vote and the next closest competitor was Ron Paul with only 15%.
Among ideological demographics, Romney won very conservative voters over Santorum 33-26, somewhat conservative voters over Paul 48-20, and moderate voters over Huntsman, 39-26. He only lost somewhat liberal voters by one point to Paul, 33-22.
Finally, among the 35% of voters who say their most important issue is beating President Obama, Romney won with a whopping 62% and the next closest and Newt Gingrich was at only 12%.
Paul is the Rodney Dangerfield of the race: “I get no respect”. Well, that is officially over with his solid second place showing in New Hampshire. Unlike Iowa where his vote ended up matching public polling, Paul outperformed all New Hampshire polls, which is a demonstration of his hard work in New Hampshire over 6 years, his passionate supporters and Paul’s anti-Washington message.
In recent days, some pundits thought Huntsman would overtake Paul for second place but no one was going to pull away Ron Paul voters especially in the waning days of the Primary.
Where was Ron Paul’s strength? As expected he won the 18-29 year old group over Romney 47-25 but they only represented 12% of the voter turnout. Paul also beat Romney among lower income voters, under $30,000, by a margin of 36-31. Among the 12% of voters who had never voted in the Republican primary, Paul beat Romney 40-23. Interestingly, 12% of voters who don’t identify themselves with a religion, Paul beat Huntsman 47-23.
Paul is now a force in this Republican Primary and how he is treated by his opponents, specifically by Romney, will determine what happens in the future with his voters.
Huntsman was a one trick pony basing his entire campaign in New Hampshire and he had claimed he would win the First in the Nation primary every step of the way, only until recently saying they were hoping for a strong finish. After finishing a distant third, 23% behind Romney, most consider Huntsman done though some in the national media have given him flexibility. Regardless, he heads to South Carolina where there is little room for him to do well given Romney’s overall strength and Huntsman’s limited appeal to conservatives.
Many in the Huntsman camp were spinning the media that he has momentum heading into yesterday’s election and he had created a buzz over the last few days as he finally started to push his moderate, non-partisan credentials in a last ditch effort to appeal to independent voters. It worked to some extent as he finished with 17%, up from poll numbers that had him consistently performing in only the high single digits. We’ll never know how well Huntsman could have done had he campaigned on a consistent message rather than floundering between trying to be the “most conservative candidate” in the race and the “non-partisan”, “civil” candidate he began as when he announced his candidacy last May.
If one is looking for some results to illustrate Huntsman’s uphill battle to become the Republican nominee, then the demographics that he won in yesterday’s Primary tell the tale.
Huntsman won three demographics yesterday: Democrats 41-24 over Ron Paul, those strongly opposed to the Tea Party 50-20 over Mitt Romney, and those who are satisfied with the Obama Administration 40-31 over Ron Paul. Republicans looking for a contrast with President Obama will have a hard time pointing to Jon Huntsman as the standard bearer when his strongest vote comes from Democrats, Obama supporters and opponents of the Tea Party.
Six short weeks ago Newt Gingrich was on top of the world, leading in national polls, in Iowa, South Carolina, Florida and nipping at Romney’s heels in New Hampshire. But no candidate in recent memory has squandered an opportunity more than Newt.
He should thank Joe McQuaid, Drew Cline and the Union Leader for every bit of the 23,000 votes he received yesterday because the talk around New Hampshire is that the paper did more to help Newt than the candidate himself.
When Newt was in the midst of his momentum, the campaign quickly organized bringing on Tea Party organizer Andrew Hemingway, respected consultant Jim Wieczorek, former US Senator Bob Smith, and they even won the big endorsement of NH House Speaker Bill O’Brien.
But Newt refused to defend himself against millions of dollars in attack ads and ignored one of the first lessons learned in Campaign 101: If an attack goes unanswered (especially one with millions of dollars attached), it becomes fact regardless of whether it is true.
Newt didn’t win a single demographic yesterday but performed best among very conservative voters coming in third behind Romney and Santorum.
Regardless of what the media and the Huntsman campaign report, no candidate worked harder in New Hampshire, especially in 2010 and 2011 than Rick Santorum. Santorum assembled some good supporters early on and was fortunate to bring on the talented Mike Biundo as his New Hampshire consultant. Biundo went on to become the national political director and he is now his national campaign manager.
But Santorum, much like Huntsman, couldn’t get traction and stayed mired in single digits in polling. So Santorum made the smart move late last year of making his stand in the Iowa Caucus which paid off, especially after Perry, Cain and Gingrich all bombed.
After a shocking second place finish in Iowa, only eight votes behind Romney, Santorum rode a wave of excitement and media attention all the way to New Hampshire where he had hope to catch more lightning in a bottle. But the problem in New Hampshire was that the Union Leader was propping up the sagging Gingrich candidacy leaving little room for Santorum to grow.
Additionally, the small staff and campaign infrastructure was drinking water from a fire hose and could do little to capture any excitement from the growing crowds and all they could do was just get him around the state as much as they could. He also should have helped himself by avoiding college campuses given his position on abortion and gay marriage. After a difficult visit to Keene State College, the story for 48 hours was of Santorum looking like a mean, conservative Republican, rather than a compassionate conservative, which led George W. Bush to the White House.
As expected, Santorum’s strength yesterday came from very conservative voters, where he only lost to Romney 33-26, and among voters who considered abortion their top issue, where he beat Romney 45-16. Unfortunately for Santorum, that group only accounted for 6% of the total vote.
Given his recent criticism of New Hampshire he doesn’t deserve any space in this column other than to report that he technically received less than one percent of the vote yesterday, just over 1,700 votes. And those people must have come out from under a rock to effectively flush their votes down the toilet. Good luck in South Carolina Rick. Though I’m not sure there’s enough luck at the end of a rainbow to help you next Tuesday.