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Opinion: After Romney's NH Win, Bring on The Main Event!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Supporters of Republican presidential hopefuls and US President Barack Obama hold placards outside a polling station at Webster School in Manchester, N.H. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty)

I watched the numbers come in from New Hampshire sitting in a coffee shop, listening to Brian Lehrer streaming online. A couple hours after the polls closed, I hopped in my car and drove home. Listening to NPR on the way, one of the guests, who's name I did not catch, dropped a comment that touches on why I haven't written much about this race.

Her comment was that this race has been over since Rick Perry's brief rollercoaster ride from fresh face in the campaign, to frontrunner and ultimately to also-ran. Between that and other potential heavyweights choosing to not throw their hats in (Palin, Christie, Cuomo, Huckabee, etc) really all but ensured a Romney v Obama general election campaign.

Even with how far gone the base of the Republican party has devolved over the last generation, they still have standards that unstable people like Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry just don't meet. Huntsman is too similar to Romney, and just seems like he doesn't have enough juice to be a heavyweight on the national stage. Ron Paul has a ceiling on how much support he's going to pull, Cain was a bomb waiting to happen, Bachmann just wore on people the wrong way and Santorum is too little, too late.

Romney has known this for a while now, and has been hedging his messaging less conservative than he otherwise would have if he thought there was a major threat to his nomination. His victory speech the night of the campaign was more of the same, appropriately harkening back to Reagan in pointing out how we're worse off than we were four years ago. This is the sweet spot for his challenge to Obama, going right after economic and fiscal right leaning folks who don't care as much about the conservative to right wing social stances Romney has taken since he started redefining himself to make him an electable Republican primary candidate.

Sure, there's a tiny chance some game changing misstep, but Romney already has low expectations he's likely to outdo in South Carolina, he's got a commanding lead in Florida, and if he roughly meets expectations there, its hard to see how any challenger will have enough money or support left to keep pace with him the five states that hold their caucuses or primaries the first week of February, and then the tidal wave of 18 states that vote during the two weeks starting the last day in February.

Sorry Ron Paul stalwarts and Santorum Surgers ... Romney has it in the bag. He has for a while now, and this dog and pony show we're going to be watching over the next weeks to months is more about the also-rans running to raise their profile... angling for political analyst positions on cable, a fat advance on a book, laying the groundwork for a run in 2016 or 2020, cabinet positions if Romney wins, etc

Enough with the prelims... bring on the main event.

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Comments [3]

Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

Forgive my ignorance... but I have no idea what the candidate shuffle is, but if you look at what Romney and Huntsman have said, their views overlap the vast majority of the time.

"I suspect that Romney is not the guy to pull the center away from Obama.
So my bet now is that we get Obama again."

I'd say that the consensus in the media that Obama wins if the economy gets out of first gear is probably right, but if it merely keeps growing at the medium to slow pace it has been, then I think it's probably a toss up.

The segment of people to watch in this election, in my opinion, are those swing voters who put more weight on economic and fiscal issues than social. Most moderates are left leaning socially, but a chunk of them put a lot more weight in economic issues than social ones. If that chunk of the electorate comes to the conclusion that Obama isn't up to the task of righting our economic ship, and Romney is... all things being equal - Romney wins.

The big variable that makes "all things being equal" not hold any water right now though is Americans Elect, and the potential for fringe candidacies. If they get even a halfway decent candidate who leans one way or the other, it could very well change the outcome of the election... for instance a Buddy Roemer candidacy would all but ensure that Romney loses, given how conservative he is. Ron Paul could also throw a wrench in, or some left winger like Rocky Anderson, if he caught on.

Far too many variables to make anything resembling a prediction right now.

Jan. 11 2012 09:16 PM
Harrison Bergeron from NYC

Solomon,

It seems likely to be a Romney vs. Obama contest.
I suspect that Romney is not the guy to pull the center away from Obama.
So my bet now is that we get Obama again.

Harrison

Jan. 11 2012 06:18 PM
Hank from ny

To cherrypick from your post, I also thought "Huntsman is too similar to Romney" But moments ago I played The Candidate Shuffle on this website and was able to have the two candidates on the opposite ends of the agree and disagree spectrum.
I can't see under the hood, nor was I trying to game the system to prove a point. But they can't be that similar.

Jan. 11 2012 03:29 PM

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