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Posted at 08:30 AM ET, 01/09/2012

What happens after New Hampshire?

After this weekend’s debates it appears that the field is willing to go down pretty quietly as former Gov. Mitt Romney secures the nomination. If anyone had a break-out game plan, it would have been on display. Instead, the candidates wandered on stage and blustered about this and that, but didn’t really challenge Romney. The most intense pressure Romney experienced was during the NBC debate on Sunday, about why and how often he ran for office years ago. And that couldn’t matter much to voters.

If Romney wins in New Hampshire and comes in first or a strong second in South Carolina, a couple of candidates could continue for a few weeks, but none could win. However, Romney can’t assume the nomination is his, or even make contingency plans. He might jinx his entire effort.

A few candidates have a pulse, but no one appears to be threatening Romney’s position. In particular, Rick Santorum did not fully capitalize on his momentum coming out of Iowa, although he didn’t completely squander it either. Romney can’t make a mistake, and so far he has been remarkably sure-footed. Bottom line; if campaign 2012 is more of the same, Romney is the nominee within a few weeks.

The Obama campaign must finalize some decisions pretty soon. How do they spend their money, and where? What is the positive to negative ratio for ads? How close to the Rose Garden does President Obama stay? What is the next fight he wants with the Republicans? Surely, it is not going to be over a pay raise for government employees. Also, an eight-month campaign will produce fatigue among the campaigns, media, candidates and the voters. Who will set the pace?

Republican plans are set by the near-term calendar. President Obama has real strategic choices to make, starting now, which could have a major impact on his place in history.

By  |  08:30 AM ET, 01/09/2012

 
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