While the Iowa Caucuses went down to the wire, the New Hampshire Primary was a takeaway for Mitt Romney, who may very well be on his way to winning the Republican nomination. New Hampshire looked like a contest of just Romney, Paul, and Huntsman, as Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry decided to put more concentration on South Carolina. After the week of debates and old fashioned campaigning, what was expected is what happened.
Mitt Romney ended up with 39% of the vote, much of it had to do with the fact that voters believe that he is the candidate that is most electable and is most likely to defeat Barack Obama come the general election. Ron Paul took second and garnered 23% of the vote. Jon Huntsman followed in third and got 17% of the vote. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both picked up 9% each, though Gingrich received more votes, but not too many more votes, and Rick Perry took last by capturing by 1% of the vote. While we knew that Romney would win by a good margin, we believed that Paul and Huntsman would have a more competitive battle for second place. The fact that six points spread the two shows that it wasn't such a competitive contest after all. Paul was able to capture a good number of young, independent voters. This shows that the older the voter, the less likely they'd be voting for Paul. Also, Paul has picked up 21% and 23% in Iowa and New Hampshire respectively this primary, while only picking up 10% and 8% respectively last time.
Jon Huntsman laid it all on the line for New Hampshire and the fact he picked up 17% of the vote, a third place finished, and a handful of delegates (but not enough to make him a force to be reckoned with) showed that he did a decent job. Despite most of us believing that this was crunch time for Huntsman, he will be staying in the race. I was almost certain, as were many other analysts, that Huntsman would be mediocre in New Hampshire and then end his bid for president. It turned out that the numbers he picked up were satisfying enough to head forth to South Carolina and eventually Florida. It will take a lot, as he polls in the single digits in both states.
The current polls of South Carolina show that Mitt Romney holds the lead for the majority of the time, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich constantly battle for second, Ron Paul follows the three of them, then Rick Perry, and finally Jon Huntsman. Paul and Perry were closer on many occasions, but Paul is garnering a bit more support and Perry's numbers are simply shrinking. I expect for Perry's numbers to be so low that he will finally end his campaign after South Carolina. Gingrich will also need a good showing or at least something decent in order to stick around. If not, I could see him ending his campaign and endorsing Santorum. I have no idea how long it will take Huntsman to end his campaign, but it may be soon when he says that enough is enough. Romney, Santorum, and Paul will likely be in the campaign for the long run, staying until Romney picks up the delegates he needs in order to clinch the nomination.
No non-incumbent Republican candidate has ever won Iowa AND New Hampshire. Mitt Romney changed the notion and may very well be on his way to running a flawless campaign. We do have many more states to go and a Super Tuesday that may be the decider for this campaign to the presidency. I'll submit a post having to cover how things are looking after all is said and done in South Carolina.