GOP presidential front runner Mitt Romney easily won the state of New Hampshire with a double digit lead, as expected. The Associate Press called the results almost immediately after the closing of the polls.
But in what was the most shocking turn of events was the second place finish of Congressman Ron Paul, who took nearly 25 percent of the vote, leaving most of the other candidates far behind.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who had put all of his effort into trying to win the state, wasn’t even able to break out of the teens. He received enough support to take third, but not enough to give his campaign any actual bounce, or even reason to go on to South Carolina. And former Senator Rick Santorum and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich both hovered at about 10 percent, showing that the Santorum boost expected from the near win in Iowa has fizzled, and that Gingrich’s flame is likely dying out as well.
So how did Romney and Paul end up with so much of the support? According to the early exit polls, the Tea Party identified voters aren’t nearly as afraid of Romney as people thought, with 37 percent of them backing Romney compared to 22 percent backing Paul and 16 percent backing Santorum. Romney also held his own with independents, coming in with the nearly the same amount of independent support as Paul and slightly more than Huntsman. If Romney can use these statistics to prove that he plays well with both the Tea Party and moderate wing of the party, he may be able to wrap the endorsement up quickly and tidily in a matter of weeks.
Of course, the biggest key to the Romney victory? Convincing voters that he is the most likely to be able to beat President Barack Obama in the general election. If his GOP rivals can find a way to undermine that, and quickly, it could still be game on for everyone.
Photo credit: Jessica Rinaldi