As expected, Mitt Romney, a\k\a the Weathervane, handily won the granite state. Romney has been working the state since 2008 and it paid off for him. Ron Paul (R. Pluto) came in second, which was not surprising, considering the traditional libertarian leanings of quite a few New Hampshire voters. John Huntsman, who had staked all his cards on New Hampshire, came in third. Half of Huntsman’s voters in exit polls identified themselves as liberals and indicated that they were satisfied with Obama as President. I expect Huntsman’s odd campaign to end shortly.
The two most frustrated men in the field were doubtless Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. They are appealing to many of the same anti-Romney voters, and neither of them could make any headway in New Hampshire with the other man in the race. Both of them had put minimal effort into New Hampshire and that state is traditionally unkind to primary Presidential candidates who do not spend quite a bit of time there. Rick Perry came in with a pathetic one percent. If the Perry campaign were a horse in Texas it doubtless would be put out of its misery soon, and I expect Perry to do the same for his on life support campaign, probably after the South Carolina primary.
So on to the Palmetto State on January 21, 2012. The South Carolina primary is most important to Rick Santorum. Most polls show him a close second. He needs to win the state. The GOP establishment in the state is entirely in the tank for the Weathervane, however that may matter less than one would think. South Carolina Republican politics tend to be feisty, factional and colorful, and there are plenty of Republican voters there who will pay absolutely no attention to endorsements by local party luminaries. I expect Santorum to make a maximum effort there, using to the full the campaign funds that have been flowing to him since Iowa. The Weathervane will also be going all out. If he can win in South Carolina, one of his weakest states, then the primary race is effectively over. Gingrich will also be looking at South Carolina as his last stand. I expect him to savage Romney as much as he can, hopefully with more intelligence than he did in New Hampshire. Here is an ad he has just released:
Ron Paul (R. Pluto) is in it to the Convention. Perry will probably be looking to simply not be completely humiliated as he was in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then drop out as quickly as he can. Huntsman is irrelevant in South Carolina whether he stays in or drops out.
If Santorum wins, he gains badly needed momentum for Florida on January 31. If he can take South Carolina and Florida, two very big ifs”, no one will still be considering Romney as the inevitable nominee and it is an entirely new ball game. Santorum’s main hope is that it eventually dawns on Gingrich that getting back at Romney, which is obviously Newt’s remaining motivation for staying in now, can be best accomplished by withdrawing and throwing his support to Santorum, so that Romney faces unified conservative opposition. I expect Newt to do that if he becomes convinced that Santorum is a serious challenger to Romney.