The results of last night’s New Hampshire primary offered few surprises. As far as election observers were concerned, the bigger question was not whether Mitt Romney would win in New Hampshire, but by how much. The former Massachusetts governor ended up with 39 percent of the vote, giving him an unprecedented win in both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Ron Paul followed behind in second place with 23 percent of the vote.
The wins in two of the nation’s most important Republican primaries solidifies Romney’s path to the GOP nomination and to November’s fight against President Obama for the presidency. For many observers, however, these recent wins have not changed the race. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones magazine summed up the night simply:
Mitt Romney has always been the inevitable nominee. After Iowa, he continued to be the inevitable nominee. After tonight, he is, still, the inevitable nominee. In other words, nothing happened.
In his victory speech, Romney positioned himself as the primary alternative to President Obama in the upcoming presidential election. “The path I lay out is not one paved with ever increasing government checks and cradle-to-grave assurances that government will always be the solution,” he said. “If this election is a bidding war for who can promise more benefits, then I’m not your president. You have that president today. But if you want to make this election about restoring American greatness, then I hope you will join us.”
At Patchwork Nation, Dante Chinni points out that Romney’s win was bolstered by votes from the wealthy suburbs, which will be key areas for the 2012 presidential vote. “Obama won the Monied Burbs by double digits in 2008, and any GOP candidate who wants to unseat him doesn’t need to win the Burbs outright, but needs to cut into that margin mightily,” Chinni writes. “After two nomination fights, Romney is clearly in the best position to make that case.”
Nevertheless, it’s clear that the remaining Republican candidates will continue to fight for the nomination as the South Carolina primary looms ahead. On CNN today, Texas governor Rick Perry stated that “If Mitt’s thinking he’s got it in the bag, he’s in for a surprise.”