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How New Hampshire Shapes the GOP Campaign Ahead

January 10, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
New Hampshire's primary Tuesday could winnow the GOP field even further. Judy Woodruff discusses the potential shift on the campaign trail with NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni and the Rothenberg Political Report's Stuart Rothenberg.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, some analysis now of what these results may signal for the campaign to come.

Here is NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni and Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call.

Stu, we heard a little conversation just then about how different Iowa and New Hampshire are. But flesh that out for us. The electorate in Iowa, we know, less socially conservative, but what are the other differences?

STUART ROTHENBERG, The Rothenberg Political Report: Well, in terms of self-ID and in terms of ideology, in Iowa, you had mostly conservatives.

And here you have a surprisingly large numbers of self-described moderates or liberals. In 2008, 45 percent of Republican primary voters IDed as moderate or liberal. That’s a huge difference, Judy, because it goes to the whole world view and view of government and the role of government and size of government.

And what struck as really interesting — I was looking at these exit numbers — who won liberals and moderates last time, four years ago? John McCain, overwhelmingly. Who won conservatives — conservatives — four years ago? Mitt Romney.

Now Mitt Romney is in the position of kind of being the McCain kind of candidate. He’s being criticized as a moderate or liberal. It will be interesting to see whether he inherits those McCain voters and how many Romney voters.

One or two other differences, obviously, there are more independents in New Hampshire. This is a somewhat more affluent electorate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Than Iowa?

STUART ROTHENBERG: Than Iowa, yes.

If you look at the number of participants who made $100,000 or more in Iowa, this year, it was 28 percent. And you look at the New Hampshire exit polls four years ago, it was 36 percent. So, again, that’s probably — that should be a good constituency for Romney.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Christina, remind us how well Romney did. We know he lost to John McCain four years ago. But what did he show four years ago? Where did he do well and not?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: He came in at about 31 percent.

And most counties, he came in second to John McCain, with, you know, between 20, 25 percent of the vote. And pretty much even his worst county was 19 percent of the vote. And so that signals these are voters that are very familiar with him. They saw him because he governed in nearby Massachusetts. And so that’s where we’re really looking tonight, you know particularly, can he do very well in those areas where he performed not so well in last time?

But they know him. One thing that I noticed a lot on the campaign trail this fall, seeing him campaign in New Hampshire, was that they were telling him he’s a better candidate this time around. They’re familiar with him. And they actually openly say, hey, Governor, we think that you have improved as a candidate.

And that’s one reason why I think he’s standing strong here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And those numbers, is that — are the numbers that he had four years ago going to be the standard by which he’s measured tonight?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Well, I think turnout is going to be probably bigger for the Republican side. You know it’s still yet to be determined, but particularly, you know, what you’re seeing in some of these early exit polls, you know, just that these are voters that are worried about the economy.

You know, seven in 10 voters, you know, said that was one of the reasons that drove them to the polls. That’s very different than in ’08, where you had — Iraq was a big driver. Anti-immigration voters were a big driver of this. So these are people that are very concerned about the deficit.

STUART ROTHENBERG: Judy, I would simply add that if Romney got 31-32 last time and McCain got 38, you would have to think that somewhere in there is the sweet spot for Mitt Romney.

If he were to exceed that, that would show that he would really have expanded support. But that would be a pretty good range for him, I think, tonight.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You were talking earlier, Stu, about — we were talking — and I was talking with Gwen as well — about Huntsman, who has been coming up, had a good debate performance over the weekend.

If he were to do well tonight, how well is he equipped to go on after New Hampshire?

STUART ROTHENBERG: I don’t think very well.

I mean, he has — talk about putting all your eggs in one basket. This is a total commitment for Jon Huntsman to New Hampshire. This is the whole strategy. It’s New Hampshire or bust. So, I think it’s interesting. We will probably at the end of the day say, boy, Jon Huntsman did a lot better than he looked like he was doing two weeks ago or a month ago.

But given his total commitment here — he passed up Iowa. He doesn’t have a lot of stuff down the road. You know, you have to think that he has to have a stunning number here, because, if he can’t, it’s the old New York, New York, story. If you can’t do well here, you can’t do well anywhere if you’re Jon Huntsman.

This would seem to be, as I mentioned — liberal and moderates, this would seem to be the place where he would do well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Christina, what else? Obviously, we are looking at the numbers. We will be watching for the numbers all night, but what else should we be looking at in tonight’s results?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Well, I think a couple things.

Ron Paul is very organized in the state. He got 8 percent in 2008. And the crowds that are coming out to see him — it was interesting what Gwen was saying about the vigor and sort of there not being all that much energy over the last few days.

But over the last year, he spent a lot of time in New Hampshire. And he’s not just getting the sort of standard young person or libertarian-leaning voter. He’s also getting a lot of strong Republicans that are curious about him. So that, I will be looking at. Certainly, if he can turn that around and use the organization that he helped build in Iowa, he will use the same tools to do better tonight.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How much should we look at, to either one of you, how many Democrats turn out to vote and independents in Iowa? I mean, this is something there’s been a lot of conversation about the last few days.

STUART ROTHENBERG: Well, you’re going to have – you’re not going to have Democrats. You’re going to have independents. So 37 percent of 2008 Republican primary voters were independents.

It’s a big number. I think in the past you would have thought, well, Mitt Romney should appeal to kind of swing voters, the more moderate voters. Maybe he’ll get independents. But Huntsman is certainly appealing to independents.

And, you know, independents as a group are incredibly quirky. They’re a complex mix. It’s not just one kind of independent. So I can imagine Ron Paul getting some independent support from people who are not strong partisans otherwise. But they traditionally have been a very important part of New Hampshire primaries.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I mentioned Democrats because we heard from Andy Smith that there are some Democrats who are turning out for Huntsman. So…

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Right. That certainly will happen a little bit.

And you’ve seen sort of anecdotally in a theme — even in the piece that we had on, on Monday night about these voters that are undeclared, very disappointed with Barack Obama, sort of, you know, maybe turning to the Republicans for a different answer. And I think that’s where you’re seeing the Obama campaign. They’re trying to do a little organizing tonight, even though he’s uncontested on the ballot.

They’ve got Joe Biden speaking to house parties. They’re making sure that their people sort of show their support for him, because this is a swing state in the general election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re going to be talking to the two of you all night.

Christina Bellantoni, Stu Rothenberg, thank you.

STUART ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Judy.