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It’s funny that two states that account for just 11 out of 538 electoral votes -- Iowa and New Hampshire -- have such sway over who becomes a party’s front runner, but that appears to be what’s happening. There were no huge surprises in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Mitt Romney was expected to win since he was the governor of neighboring Massachusetts and his family owns a home in New Hampshire. But he didn’t get 50 percent or more of the vote some people said he needed to show that Republicans love Mitt enough to send him to the White House.
If that’s the case, what did we learn from the New Hampshire outcome about what could be important for victories in South Carolina and Florida later this month?
1. Beware the pink slips. Romney needs to be careful in his speeches. At one New Hampshire engagement, he commented that if he’s unhappy with a company’s service, he likes to have the option of “firing” them. Needless to say, his opponents jumped all over that one, especially as it related to his history of corporate takeovers while at Bain Capital. Romney claims he was taken out of context. But even if he was, a candidate who isn’t aware of what a sound-bite like that can do to a candidacy ought to think twice. Maybe that’s why he had a teleprompter brought in for his victory speech?
2. The “kids” love Ron Paul. New Hampshire has a lot of independent voters, and they threw their support to Ron Paul. Interestingly, the bulk of his support came from college students. Can he count on that support in South Carolina? That could be a problem for him, as some states have worked to clamp down on the ability of college students to vote where they go to school. While registered South Carolina college students should still be able to vote there with their college ID later this month, they might not be aware that they can because of the state’s recent high profile efforts to preclude that.
3. “Country First” isn’t working. Jon Huntsman got a lot of applause at the two New Hampshire debates as he focused on the importance of putting country first over one’s own political ambitions. That theme didn’t play as well at the polls as he’d hoped, giving him a third place finish, instead of the second-place runner-up spot he was hoping for. While he says he’s taking the South Carolina primary seriously, the Mandarin-speaking former Utah Governor isn’t polling well in there. But maybe he doesn’t want it to. He looks more like a man who has his eye on 2016 to me.
4. Newt Gingrich hates Mitt Romney. At least that’s the only inference I can draw after the major attacks the former Congressman from Georgia keeps lobbing at Romney. Gingrich must be pretty steamed over tying for fourth place with the sweater vest candidate, because his campaign is making no secret of the fact that he’s planning all-out war against Romney between now and South Carolina, complete with attack ads portraying Romney as anti-jobs and pro-abortion.
5. The “money bomb” didn’t’ work. Rick Santorum, the almost-winner in the Iowa Caucuses, knew he wasn’t polling as well as he wanted in New Hampshire. So in the days before the primary contest, he launched a “money bomb” effort -- a push to get as many donors as possible in one day to provide a large lump sum to buy more ads. The incentive to contribute? A chance to receive one of Santorum’s now-infamous sweater vests. I guess New Hampshire voters thought they’d need more to stay warm in New England weather than a sweater without sleeves.
6. Someone may soon be heading back to Texas. Rick Perry got a last place finish in New Hampshire, receiving less than one percent of the vote there. Perry has also been on the “attack Romney” bandwagon and mocked Romney’s comments that there were times in his professional life that he himself had feared getting “a pink slip.” That didn’t give Perry the voting boost he’d hoped for, but his fingers are crossed it will in South Carolina, as he continues to talk about Romney eliminating jobs at some factories there and keeps reminding conservative voters of his Christian values.
Do you think we’re in for any surprises in South Carolina? Or do you think Mitt Romney has it in the bag?
You can read more from iVillage contributor Joanne Bamberger at her blog, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, which is on sale now at Amazon.com.