It will now have to take something special and unexpected to prevent Mitt Romney from becoming the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.
Mitt Romney’s victory in New Hampshire’s primary election today was expected, but it was the first time a Republican presidential candidate has won in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He won because the voters saw him as having the best chance to beat president Obama in November.
The victory was big, although not overwhelming, and it gives Romney fresh momentum for the next battle in South Carolina on January 21. The victory was also revenge for his loss in the New Hampshire primary in 2008 to John McCain, who received 37 percent of the vote to Romney’s 31 percent.
Today, Romney got 38 percent of the vote against 24 percent for runner-up Ron Paul and 17 percent for the third-place Jon Huntsman. The other three, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry, came far behind with 10, 10 and 1 percent of the vote.
For the libertarian Ron Paul, his second place was a clear success, and his neoliberal/isolationist message will be heard loud and clear for a long while still in the Republican primary campaign.
New Hampshire was also a success for the third-place Jon Huntsman, but not enough of a success. He needed to come in second. He will go on to South Carolina, but it’s difficult to see him do well in that conservative, Tea Party-friendly state in the deep South. New Hampshire will likely be the high point of Huntsman’s presidential campaign.
And for the remaining three, Gingrich, Santorum and Perry, New Hampshire was no fun. They tried but could not shake Romney. So three personal disappointments but also a great disappointment for the conservatives in the Republican Party, who still view Mitt Romney with great suspicion. But what can they do? There is not enough time to stop Romney.