1. Many people are going to say Mitt Romney did not win by a large enough margin. To be sure, his weakness remain. But he took nearly 40 percent of the vote in a six-candidate race and the exit polls show him enjoying the support of broad cross-section of New Hampshire Republican primary voters. Good luck making that argument. He’s more than a step closer to the nomination.
2. None of the candidates who are best situated to stand against Romney in South Carolina — Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and especially Rick Perry — did anything to help themselves tonight. Instead, they hurt themselves.
3. Some will argue that Santorum should have skipped New Hampshire rather than risk an embarrassing result. I offer three counterarguments: Pat Buchanan in 1996 proved social conservatives can do well in New Hampshire; Gingrich would likely have finished closer to Jon Huntsman without Santorum in the race, hurting the former senator anyway; it isn’t clear that bypassing New Hampshire bought Perry anything.
4. Ron Paul needed to finish ahead of Huntsman. He still would have enjoyed back-to-back top three finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, a major coup. But losing the expecations a second week in a row would have demoralized a subset of his supporters and made it more difficult to channel their enthusiasm into productive purposes, like winning votes for Paul, as opposed to counterproductive ones, like more sign-waving at other candidates’ rallies or complaining about conspiracies against their candidate.
5. Paul is doing quite well at simultaneously building a movement within the GOP and attracting independents. No wonder he is upsetting his critics so.
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