Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"New Hampshire Results: Everything You Know is Wrong, Romney Strong and Paul Goes Long" (with video)

Ari Melber (The Nation):
You know who won, so here are my takeways from what might be the beginning of the end:

1. Romney Actually Won Big
There is a rumor going around that Romney did not win convincingly. "Five Years Campaigning, Less Than 40%?," blared Huffington Post's quizzical election headline. Here's a better question: Who breaks 40% while winning New Hampshire? John McCain didn't -- he won with 37% last cycle. Neither did Granite State winners Hillary Clinton (39%) or John Kerry (38%). Romney's 39% stacks up well, and he is competing in a pretty wide field. Thus while Romney's total is close to those previous winners, his margin of victory is actually significantly larger, as Karl Rove noted on Tuesday night. A decisive Romney victory doesn't fit the narrative of an "anti-Romney" narrative, however, so these numbers have been underplayed.

In another sign of strength, Romney led among all voters when they were asked who would be a satisfactory nominee. Regardless of who they backed, 61% of New Hampshire voters found him satisfactory -- in other words, some 20% of the people who voted for other candidates have already accepted the idea of Romney in the general election.

2. There's This Guy in Second Place Named Ron Paul
While Romney is the first non-incumbent Republican to dominate the first two contests in the modern era, Ron Paul is the only candidate besides Romney to finish strong in both states. He trailed Romney by 3 points in Iowa, and came in a very solid second last night. Paul had more votes in New Hampshire than Santorum, Gingrich and Perry combined. Just as he showed breadth in appealing to evangelicals in Iowa, Paul's constituency was wide in New Hampshire: He led among voters making under $50,000 (about a quarter of the electorate) and was second to Romney among people who had a favorable view of the last GOP nominee, John McCain (a majority of the electorate). But the wider primary electorate would not accept Paul, right? You'd have to ask them to be sure. The exit pollsters did, and overall, regardless of their personal preference, more voters said they would be "satisfied" with a Paul nomination than Gingrich or Santorum. Now, that could reflect some ignorance about Paul's record and ideas, but if the press is going to cover the strength of Paul's campaign on earth, and not its hypothetical vulnerabilities, then it's time to report the reality of his appeal in this race.

A voter tuning into the conservative coverage at Fox News on Tuesday, however, would have no idea that Paul is currently in second place. Many other outlets have not been much better -- the press would love to have a two-man race, but not enough to overcome it's Paul problem. Like Mike Huckabee or Jesse Jackson before him, Ron Paul is learning that if you are deemed "unserious," even the voters can't save you.

3. New Hampshire is Not The GOP Base, But The Base is Not What You Think
Complaints about the unrepresentative nature of Iowa and New Hampshire come along like the Olympics, or like a presidential campaign. They happen every four years, is what I'm trying to say. And the complaints are true but a little misleading. Last night, for example, Romney didn't just win an open primary. He also did better than every other candidate among people who describe themselves as "very conservative" - about one out of five voters. Remember the Tea Party? Romney did best among Tea Party supporters, doubling the take of their next favorite candidate. (It was Ron Paul, but shhh -- this is not a two-man race!) Romney did best among registered Republicans, which was again more than double the support for the next most popular candidate. (You get one guess on who that was.) And in the sub-slice of the electorate that most concretely reflects Base Participation, Republicans who voted in previous GOP primaries, Romney dominated with a strong 43%. The candidate who came in second among those experienced Republican voters? Ron Paul, at 20%.

Howie P.S.: Video (02:45): ED asks, "Who becomes the anti-Romney candidate?"

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