Romney on fire, Paul pulls into second

No non-incumbent Republican has ever won in Iowa and then gone on to win in New Hampshire. Until now.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor


non-incumbent Republican has ever won in Iowa and then gone on to win in New Hampshire. Until now. Willard Mitt Romney, age 64, child of former Michigan governor George Wilcken Romney and the former Lenore LaFount has firmly firmed up his Republican front-runner status.

Nipping at his heals, to quote Ron Paul, is Ron Paul. Ronald Earnest Paul, at 76, is five years older than John McCain was, when McCain ran in 2008. Paul made a strong showing in the heavily independent, relatively liberal state of New Hampshire.

Coming up a weak third was Jon Huntsman, followed by Gingrich, Santorum, and a very pallid Perry.

Despite being two-for-two (this contest a strong win, the previous contest an ugly win), Romney is not necessarily the shoo-in for the nomination. He faces an uncomfortable fight next week in South Carolina, where many evangelicals are not exactly happy to be voting for a Mormon, particularly one who did missionary work in Le Havre, France as a youth.

This, in fact, is where the race gets interesting. Romney clearly has the organization, the momentum, and therefore the money. He's been heavily strafing the Florida airwaves (Florida comes after South Carolina) as a backup plan, in case he doesn't take South Carolina.

Going into South Carolina are two marginal candidates, Perry and Santorum, but both have a powerful appeal to the evangelicals, especially with their focus on right-to-life and their assaults on gay rights. Although Ron Paul has come out against choice, his focus on individual freedoms seems strongly counter to ideas like Constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.

This makes Paul a very interesting candidate in South Carolina, because he's also a Baptist, and the Baptists are a quite considerable segment of the population.

Predicting the election this early is a bit of a game, but here's my guess:

  • Paul, because of his Tea Party popularity and Baptist roots, will pick up some steam in South Carolina. He may not win, but if not, he'll come in a stronger second.
  • Romney, widely considered the most electable against Barack Obama, will remain strong, but will lose some wind because of his Mormon background.
  • Huntsman will implode. None of his messages will resonate well in South Carolina, and all he can do is hope he survives to Florida.
  • Gingrich will remain Newt. There will be no change, he will not quit, he will not get stronger. He will just be Newt.
  • Santorum will do worse than he expects. He might score around 10% of the vote, but the Romney-can-beat-Obama-ers and Ron Paul's fanatical supporters will take away most of his remaining Iowa juice.
  • Perry will show on the map, but not enough to make a difference. There's yet another debate, and yet another chance for Perry to un-distinguish himself.

The big issue for Romney is the continuing attacks on his time at Bain. On the one hand, many Americans are willing to give someone with something of a clue about business a chance to fix some of our economic problems. On the other, Romney's very rare off-key statement about "liking to fire people" will play badly, and constantly, for the next few weeks.

Right now, it's Romney's race to lose. There's still a (slim) chance he might if Bain becomes his bane.

Correction: Article originally stated "No Republican has ever won..." when the real fact is "No non-incumbent Republican has ever won...". Fixed. Thanks, Wayne.

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