Pundits are calling Mitt Romney’s loss to John McCain last night in New Hampshire a bitter blow, and others even predicted it will be fatal – yet these are the same talking heads that incorrectly predicted a double digit victory for Obama in the Granite State. As the smoke clears on the ground of New Hampshire, it reveals a Republican race with no front-runner, no loser suffering fatal damage and no real momentum behind any of the candidates.
John McCain won his first state with 37%. Mitt Romney trailed McCain by about 8,500 votes with 72% of the state’s precincts totaling in, pulling second place with 32%.
Some wags are calling McCain, a longtime favorite in the state “president of New Hampshire.” McCain’s sometimes cussed independence from conservatives appeals in states such as New Hampshire which don’t align well with the rest of the nation. Now he has to prove that it translates in other major states such as South Carolina. In the 2000 primaries, McCain’s big win in New Hampshire was only a prelude to a bigger defeat in South Carolina where George Bush pulled ahead. McCain’s win is a “comeback” but it may not be sustainable any more this year than it was eight years ago.
Romney finished second in the first caucuses in Iowa and now the first primary in New Hampshire — and Romney did win Wyoming — a state that is neglected by the main stream media, mostly because of it’s strong Republican presence (62% of voters are registered Republicans).
In a race that is still wide open, Romney — after two “losses” — has the most delegates (30) to send to the Republican National Convention in September. Although Romney could lose momentum by not pulling in the “big win,” by remaining a national constant he becomes more of a threat than Huckabee, or McCain who have single wins and less delegates (Huckabee has 21 and McCain 10).
Real Clear Politics poll averages in Michigan place Romney in a consistent position to win or take second. Romney is polling in with 19.8% and Huckabee with 18.9%. McCain trails for third with 13%.
Polls in Nevada place Romney head to head with a slight edge over Giuliani, again making him the steady candidate.
Huckabee is the clear leader in polls from South Carolina with averages of 32% over the 19% given to McCain, and then 16% to Romney — his first appearance in third place in the polls. Huckabee will hope for an evangelical turnout again in South Carolina, but Romney’s endorsement from the popular Republican Senator Jim DeMint may be underestimated.
Like Iowa, a win in New Hampshire for Romney would have been better for his campaign, but aside from financial losses (that are hardly hurting his pocket) Romney can move forward. In presidential politics sometimes there is a such thing as second best.