Mitt Romney has conquered two critical proving grounds in the US presidential elections. Following his razor-thin win over Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucus, Romney has secured an indisputable majority in New Hampshire with 38% of the votes. Conventional election wisdom dictates that candidates who fare well in Iowa and/or New Hampshire can expect to become the party’s presidential nominee. Candidates Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman have also hailed the primary as a victory for their campaigns.
Romney is steadily gathering support, most likely because he is perceived to be the candidate who will be able to match Obama once the race boils down to the two party nominees.
Mitt Romney’s win in New Hampshire is no surprise, but Rick Santorum’s results are. Santorum came at a historically close second to Romney in Iowa, but scored only 9.3% of votes there, in a radical upset. Ron Paul, who came at a distant third in Iowa, secured 22% of votes. Jon Huntsman has recovered from his poor results in the January 3 caucus (0.6% of the votes) and pushed himself into the new big three of the Republican candidates with 16.8%. A buoyant Huntsman declared that landing third was a ‘ticket to the ride.’ Unlike Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, who were visibly discouraged by their Iowa results, the former ambassador to China and Singapore pushed on with his campaign, arriving earlier than the other candidates in New Hampshire to encourage voters to turn “conventional wisdom” on his head and give him victory in the state.
New Hampshire is considered a critical stage in the presidential race, because it is the first instance where each state’s delegates will be at stake. In previous elections, all of the delegates in a state would be awarded to whoever landed the majority of votes at the primary. This time around, the delegates will be awarded on a proportional basis, which means that winning in a state does not result in a landslide takeover of the state.
Surveys of voters leaving the polls said the economy was the top issue. It is likely to remain the driving issue throughout the 2012 elections, and will be the Republicans’ main weapon against incumbent Obama’s presidential record.
Next the candidates will seek voters’ support in South Carolina on January 21st, which may pose a challenge for Romney, a Mormon, who will have to win over a large evangelical population. "In South Carolina, Mitt Romney seems to be everybody's second choice," said Danielle Vinson, chair of the political-science department at Furman University in Greenville. South Carolina still counts among the early primaries, which are seen as the definitive battles in the presidential nominations. Ever since 1980, winners of the South Carolina primary have gone on to become the eventual Republican nominee.
Whatever the result in South Carolina, Romney is in for a gruelling stretch, as he and his team are also doing their utmost to secure the Florida primary at the end of the month. Florida could be the true defining stage of the presidential nomination, where Romney could secure his nomination for good. If a strong contender arises to match Romney, some have suggested that a long, exhaustive race could ensue. Mitt Romney is already under fire from fellow Republicans for his record at Bain, a company which the other candidates have newly accused of “vulture capitalism.”
Experts forecast that Romney will see more strong support in South Carolina. Newt Gingrich is likely to see a return to the front of the race, while Jon Huntsman may fall back into the bottom of the list, according to the New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight column.
Report: Huntsman calls 3rd place finish ‘ticket to ride’ (Seattle PI, 11 January 2012)
Report: Romney savors NH win, hits Obama right away (Seattle PI, 11 January 2012)
Forecast: Romney Looks Strong in South Carolina and Beyond (FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times, 11 January 2012)
Report: Romney Wins New Hampshire Primary (Voice of America, 11 January 2012)
Report: After New Hampshire, What’s Next? (ABC News, 11 January 2012)
Report: In South Carolina, Challenges Await on Ideology and Faith (The New York Times, 11 January 2012)
Report: Conservatives Target South Carolina (The Wall Street Journal, 11 January 2012)