The results in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary confirmed many of our suspicions about the GOP presidential field.
Specifically, the exit polls showed that Mitt Romney is the pick of pragmatists who want to beat President Obama and that everybody else in the field has a very defined base of support that calls into question any chance they may have of winning the GOP nomination.
Let’s take them one-by-one. (And make sure to check out our polling team’s roundup.)
* Romney: The former Massachusetts governor, in his double-digit win, took a stunning 62 percent of those who say they see the ability to beat Obama as the most important characteristic in a nominee, even more than he took in Iowa.
This continues to argue for the fact that Republicans see Romney as their best hope for the race ahead, and that bodes well as he inches closer to becoming the presumptive nominee. He does pretty well among essentially every group — even upping his vote share among self-described “very conservative” voters in New Hampshire — and figures to have a good shot at picking up supporters from opponents who may drop out in the coming days.
* Jon Huntsman: In the first contest where he actually competed, we found Huntsman’s base to be almost exactly what we thought it was (they ARE who we thought they were!): moderate and largely outside the GOP.
The former Utah governor took 23 percent of undeclared (i.e. independent) voters and only 10 percent of registered Republicans. And given that a registered Republican in New Hampshire is less conservative than a lot of other states, that’s saying something.
Huntsman took 25 percent of self-described moderate-to-liberal voters, but he took only 5 percent of those who describe themselves as “very conservative.”
There won’t be such a pool of moderates and independents to draw on in other states, and that’s bad news for Huntsman.
But perhaps more striking is this number: 12 percent of voters in the GOP primary Tuesday said they were satisfied with Obama as president. Huntsman took 40 percent of them — one of his biggest demographic wins in the myriad categories in the exit poll.
* Rick Santorum: The former Pennsylvania senator’s base from the Iowa caucuses held up in New Hampshire. The problem is they were a far smaller piece of the pie.
Santorum won 26 percent of those describing themselves as “very conservative” and just 5 percent of moderate-to-liberal voters. He won 23 percent of born-again Christians but only 6 percent of non-born agains.
Less than a quarter of voters identified themselves as born-again (also known as evangelicals), reflecting a much smaller pool than in Iowa.
Santorum is close to being written off as a niche candidate. His niche is pretty big in some states — i.e. Iowa — but unlike Romney, he hasn’t shown an ability to appeal to disparate sections of the party.
Case-in-point: Romney actually beat Santorum among “very conservative” voters on Tuesday, 33 percent to 26 percent.
* Paul: The Texas congressman’s clear second-place finish has to be seen as a win, especially considering he only lost to Romney by a little more than a dozen points and out-performed the late polling of the race.
Unfortunately for him, much like Huntsman and Santorum, he’s really not expanding his brand either.
Paul took nearly half the vote from voters aged 18 to 29 years old, but only about 1 in 10 voters who are 65 years and older — a striking imbalance that carried over from Iowa. Older voters are much more likely to turn out to vote than younger ones basically everywhere.
Paul also took about two times as many votes from undeclared voters as he did from registered Republicans.
Given that some states don’t allow independents to vote — and that they were nearly half the vote in New Hampshire — it looks like New Hampshire might be a high-watermark for him.
Romney super PAC goes big in Florida: Romney is getting some big assists in the next two primaries, and now looks like he might drown his opponents with ads in both South Carolina and Florida.
The main super PAC supporting Romney, Restore Our Future, has now bought $3.6 million more in ad time in Florida, giving Romney a big presence on TV in an expensive state, three weeks before the Sunshine State’s primary. On Monday, the super PAC bought $2.3 million in ad space in South Carolina, which holds the next primary Jan. 21.
It’s becoming more and more clear that Romney’s opponents and their super PACs can’t compete financially with his campaign and his super PAC. He will have far more of an advertising edge in South Carolina and Florida than he’s had so far — notwithstanding the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC that just got a $5 million infusion from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
10 more added to NewDEAL:A group headed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) to highlight rising pro-business progressives has added 10 members to the dozens it is highlighting.
The 10 NewDEAL candidates are: Salem (Mass.) Mayor Kim Driscoll, Palo Alto (Calif.) Mayor Sid Espinosa, Arizona state Rep. Ruben Gallego, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, North Carolina state Rep. Grier Martin, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, California state Sen. Michael Rubio, and West Virginia state Senate Majority Leader John Unger. All are Democrats, though the NewDEAL is technically nonpartisan.
Madigan is seen as a likely future candidate for Senate or governor, while Unger and Rubio have run aborted campaigns for Congress. (Rubio recently dropped out after his newborn daughter was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.)
Adelson may give the pro-Gingrich super PAC more than the $5 million check he has already cut.
Just how independent were the independent voters Tuesday? Not very.
Paul’s campaign keeps defending Romney’s “fire people” comment.
Vice President Biden, ever helpful to his party with his comments, says the “fire people” comment was probably taken out of context.
Herman Cain misstates Reagan’s “13th Commandment.”
“2 veteran Calif. GOP congressmen announce retirement” — Paul Kane, Washington Post
“Romney may face lasting damage from New Hampshire campaign” — Philip Rucker, Washington Post
“In South Carolina, Challenges Await on Ideology and Faith” — Jim Rutenberg, New York Times
“Conservative activists scrambling for a strategy to stop Romney” — Peter Wallsten and Karen Tumulty, Washington Post
“Romney poised to win big where he lost four years ago” — Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times