And so, with a handsome Romney victory in New Hampshire, the circus moves on to South Carolina. The spectacle that is the search for a Republican presidential nominee might not have had a nail-biting finish but it gave us plenty to marvel at.
Mitt Romney wasn’t the one providing the fireworks though. His campaign is financially strong and it is stable. There are no improvised soundbites and very few gaffes for his opponents to pounce on. There are no impassioned pleas for votes, just a very well rehearsed stump speech, elements of which Romney manages to place strategically in the televised debates.
And therein lies Romney’s strength. His consistency and his lack of slip-ups are so far making for a very comfortable procession toward the actual nomination.
The key word here is momentum. Mitt Romney now has it by the bucketful. Many other Republican contenders have had it and lost it within the space of a week. The likes of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain have crashed and burned. Mitt Romney’s campaign will not.
Is this a case of game, set and match for the former Governor of Massachusetts? Not quite yet, but if he were to run away with the next two primaries, this Republican race to the nomination will be all over bar the shouting.
Meanwhile, the other candidates are left to lick their wounds and examine their finances. With victory comes more media exposure and more campaign money. With defeat come a lot of soul-searching and a very basic question: is there enough cash to fight another fight in another state?
South Carolina will see the same phenomenon as New Hampshire. The Romney juggernaut in the form of his campaign bus will take him to town hall meetings, rallies, and meet-and-greets in diners and shops.
New Hampshire, much like Iowa, is the place for retail politics. Seeing a presidential candidate engage a potential voter (or vice-versa) is a common occurrence in these parts. And that’s where the circus comes in: Newt Gingrich visiting the longest candy counter in the world, Jon Huntsman driving himself around the state to look more authentic, Rick Santorum being told by a supporter she will pray for him, Ron Paul being led out of the backdoor of a diner because of the media scrum. And Romney, well, Romney does nothing extravagant. He doesn’t need to.
Even a protester disrupting one of his rallies is booted out before he can even begin making his point. Such is the power of the lean Romney election machine. As journalists we of course constantly look for the one gaffe, the one slip-up that could revive this contest. But it is nowhere to be seen.
The reality is Mitt Romney might be boring but he is electable and looks presidential. The result from New Hampshire confirms this simple truth.