This may turn out to be a big win for Romney, but the main change that may come from this primary will be the shift in who is running behind Romney.
Huntsman needs a top three finish to remain a serious candidate in the race, and it’s looking like he may take third. Ron Paul is projected to get second, and this marks what may be Paul’s last top finish for a while. Paul campaigned heavily in Iowa, and he did a moderate amount in New Hampshire, but his success in NH is largely due to the state’s history of leaning Libertarian. I suspect that if Paul had ignored the state entirely, he would have still placed in the top three.
I’m almost surprised Paul didn’t win, but Romney proved once again the benefit of having the most money.
These results are for only 58 of 301 precincts, but the placement is projected to remain the same.
It almost looks like a nail in the coffin for Perry, but not quite. His campaign has some life in it, as they have been focusing on South Carolina for a while now, and it’s no shock that New Hampshire voters didn’t go for Perry’s brand of cowboy Christian conservatism.
I’m more surprised that Santorum is in a dead heat with Gingrich. I can only chalk it up to the entirety of the hard-line fundamentalist vote in the state bailing on Perry and backing Santorum.
Gingrich needs to place in the top half soon if he wants his campaign to not look like a floundering failure. He’s in the same boat as Perry, only I think Gingrich could potentially run a low-budget guerilla campaign for longer than Perry would reasonably hold out. If Perry does particularly well in South Carolina, he may stick around, though I doubt he’ll make it to Super Tuesday in March.
In fact, I wonder if there will be many candidates left by the time Super Tuesday rolls around on March 6th. Romney has to be hoping there aren’t, because the more candidates in the race, the more people will be taking shots at him during debates and in ads. There are still more debates than I am going to bother looking up (it’s a lot), and the caucus/primary schedule leading up to Super Tuesday looks like this:
January 21, 2012 - South Carolina (primary)
January 31, 2012 - Florida (primary)
February 4, 2012 - Nevada (caucus)
February 4–11, 2012 - Maine (caucus)
February 7, 2012 - Colorado (caucus), Minnesota (caucus), Missouri (unofficial public primary)
February 28, 2012 - Arizona (primary), Michigan (primary)
March 3, 2012 - Washington (caucus)
March 6, 2012 (Super Tuesday) - Alaska (caucus), Georgia (primary) Idaho (caucus), Massachusetts (primary), North Dakota (caucus), Ohio (primary), Oklahoma (primary), Tennessee (primary), Vermont (primary), Virginia (primary)
There are a couple states that moved their caucus or primary up to be before Super Tuesday, and that may affect the race profoundly. Money will be more important than ever before, as will how one uses the money they have.
Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are likely to be the last candidates in the race, with Romney almost assuredly being the winner. Now, I’m not saying Paul will be placing second or will be the second most popular candidate. Rather, Paul has more experience than any of the other candidates running a national campaign on a shoestring budget, and he’s likely to be like Huckabee last year, who was the last candidate to drop out before McCain won the nomination.
Perry has the second deepest pockets behind Romney, and he has the support of more private donors and Super PACs than anyone but Romney. However, his dismal poll numbers are indicative of a candidate who is either unelectable, or perhaps a few election cycles away from being viable. If he wins or places second in South Carolina (and especially if he then finishes well in Florida), expect to see Perry back in 2016.
Santorum is another candidate who might do well in South Carolina, but I suspect he may be over and done with. He may stick around for a few weeks, but I would be shocked if he’s still here on Super Tuesday.
Huntsman is in the same boat as Santorum: his best finish is probably behind him. I imagine Gingrich will be the low-finisher who gains a few late finishes if he has the will to fight on. Gingrich might be one of the last four or even three candidates, my primary logic being that he has a lot of experience getting free attention, so he might weather the storm of negative attack ads more than any of the low-budget candidates (Paul, Huntsman and Santorum being the others).
This is as good of a time as any to discuss VP possibilities. I have very little confidence in this area, because I never understand the logic behind the process. I know the principle is to pick a VP that compliments the candidate, but if 2008 taught us anything, you never know who will get picked. I never would have guessed Palin or Biden would get the nod.
In fact, before I start, I have seen talk from political insiders that Hillary Clinton may be Obama’s running mate in 2012, and Biden might be given the position of Secretary of State. It makes sense on paper, I guess, but I think it’s unlikely. It sounds more like wishful thinking.
For the Republicans, I have heard a lot of speculation. The first I heard about was Marco Rubio, but I recently read that Chris Christie has been stumping for Romney, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Christie is jockeying for the VP slot (I am assuming Romney will be the candidate). Among the current field of presidential candidates, I have read every one is being considered by some as ideal, but I think Gingrich might be the top choice.
Gingrich fits the classic VP-as-bulldog role, as does Chris Christie. I think Christie is more likely, however, because Gingrich has been pulling no punches when facing Romney during the campaign.
Regardless of who the VP candidate for Romney will be, it’s clear who the real winner in 2012 will be: people who produce political ads.