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Romney Wins New Hampshire Comfortably, What’s Ahead in South Carolina?

by | Jan 12, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Let’s take a few minutes to look at last night’s victory by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the New Hampshire primary. What is there to say, beyond that he won handily, as anticipated? Several things as the candidates (including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who skipped New Hampshire) move on to the January 21 primary in South Carolina.

First, the numbers. Romney exceeded the dreaded “expectations” game; the bar was roughly 37%-38%. (In 2008 Senator John McCain carried 38%.)

 

Romney took 39%, 16 points better than for the second-place finisher, Rep. Ron Paul (23%). They were followed by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (17%), and former Speaker Newt Gingrich edged out former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum for fourth place, with each getting essentially 9.4% of the vote.

Second, Romney is two for two, having prevailed (by eight votes) over Santorum in the Iowa caucuses. What’s interesting is because New Hampshire’s primary is open to Independents, if you look at exit polls,  there were as many Independents voting last night as Republicans—47%.

And anyone who follows politics at all realizes South Carolina is much more like Iowa than New Hampshire. Thus the likelihood that the battle in the Palmetto state will be much, much closer than last night. But the point remains, Romney won in both states.

Third, South Carolina has voted for the man who has gone on to win the Republican nomination in every primary since 1980. Were Romney to win again—following up on his two previous victories—political pundits would coronate him the GOP nominee.

Fourth, with all that at stake, it is no surprise that the candidates are playing for keeps. The bruising attacks on Romney, already intense, are reaching white-hot proportions.

Fifth is something we talked about yesterday (and obviously prior to the results from New Hampshire): matchups between Republican candidates and Obama. A  new CBS News poll showed Romney leading President Obama in a hypothetical general election matchup, 47% to 45% (including 45%-39% among independents). The President is ahead of Paul 46%-45%, Santorum 47%-43%, Gingrich 49%-41%, Texas Gov. Rick Perry 49%-42%, and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman 48%-41%.

Also Gallup reported yesterday that Romney is “now the only candidate that a majority of conservative and moderate/liberal Republicans nationwide see as an ‘acceptable’ GOP nominee for president. Conservative Republicans are more likely to say Romney would be an acceptable nominee than either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum.” 59% of Conservative Republicans and 59% of moderate/liberal Republicans found Romney acceptable.

Sixth and finally, looking ahead to South Carolina. RealClearPolitics.com publishes recent polls, and helpfully averaging the results out. It found that in recent polls Romney had close to 31% in South Carolina, followed  by Santorum with 21% and Gingrich at 20%. These top three were followed by Paul (11%), Perry (5%), and Huntsman (2%).

But showing how much polls can differ, Rasmussen showed Romney up by only 3% while CNN/TIME had Romney leading by 18%.

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Categories: Politics