In the spirit of participatory democracy, I thought I’d discuss a few items that came up in the comments after the New Hampshire primary results.
1. Why is everyone crowning Mitt Romney when only two states have voted and no reliable red states have been heard from? It’s true: Romney won a narrow, disputed victory in Iowa, is weak in the South, and should be beatable in South Carolina. The problem is that Romney is currently leading in South Carolina and Florida. Where is the first state where he loses? At some point, momentum kicks in and the frontrunner becomes hard to beat.
The anti-Romney vote hasn’t coalesced around a single candidate. Nobody expected Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich to win New Hampshire, but they both struggled to compete and finished below 10 percent. The less that is said about Rick Perry at this point, the better. What has happened that should inspire any confidence in anyone that one of these three candidates can get their act together and win the nomination?
2. Mitt Romney didn’t get [insert arbitrary percentage of the vote here]. Yes, even in Romney’s best state 61 percent of Republican primary voters cast ballots against him. But it is hard to get 50 percent, or even 45 percent, in a six-candidate race. Romney got a higher percentage of the vote in New Hampshire than John McCain did in 2008, and NH launched McCain to the nomination that year. I just don’t think this dog will hunt.
3. Why do you like Mitt Romney so much? I don’t. I still believe he will be vulnerable in the general election for every reason I outlined in my article from the March 2011 issue warning against his nomination, plus a deflated GOP base. But I do think he’s on track to win the nomination, barring a late resurgence from one of the candidates I mentioned in my first item.
4. Shut up about Ron Paul, he is only getting votes from left-wing Democrats and independents. Leaving aside the fact that a successful Republican nominee will need votes from Democrats and independents, this isn’t true. Yes, Paul is benefiting greatly from crossover votes and will have a harder time breaking through in the closed primary states. But Paul still finished second among self-described Republicans in New Hampshire (albeit a much more distant second). The exit polls show Paul tying for second among registered Republicans, ahead of Santorum. Paul tied for third among registered Republicans in Iowa, doubling his share of that vote since 2008. So Paul has improved with traditional Republicans too.