After a few days of fierce attacks on his corporate record by Republican rivals, Mitt Romney won decisively in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday. Libertarian Ron Paul and moderate Jon Huntsman were placed second and third.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney sailed to a decisive victory over his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in the New Hampshire primary late Tuesday, cementing his spot as frontrunner and reinforcing his image as the conservative with the best chance of beating President Barack Obama in November.
“It’s very much the Mitt Romney juggernaut that moves on toward the next primaries” in South Carolina and Florida, said FRANCE 24 correspondent Philip Crowther, reporting from New Hampshire.
Romney’s double-digit margin of victory in the small New England state – he earned roughly 40 percent of the vote, with libertarian Ron Paul getting about 23 percent and Jon Huntsman placing third with 17 percent – gave him a shot of momentum after a dangerously slim win over social conservative Rick Perry in the Iowa caucuses just over a week ago.
Santorum failed to capitalise on the surprise boost Iowa had given him, garnering only about 9 percent of the ballots case in New Hampshire.
The news for Romney was particularly encouraging, given that the past few days saw his Republican rivals painting him as a greedy job-killer in the wake of reports that Bain Capital, a private equity firm that Romney co-founded, had laid off employees while making a profit.
A comment Romney made on the campaign trail earlier this week that he “[likes] to be able to fire people” (in reference to his belief that individuals should be able to select, or cancel, their own health insurance options) was slammed as particularly tone-deaf in light of current unemployment rates.
Right ‘failing’ to find alternative to Romney
But none of his rivals was able to emerge as a feasible alternative to Romney in New Hampshire. Though Romney has struggled to garner much enthusiasm among Republican voters and rally the party’s various factions (fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, evangelical Christians, moderates, Tea Party supporters), the opposition to him from within his own ranks remains highly fractured. “The right is still desperately seeking to find a plausible anti-establishment candidate,” noted FRANCE 24 international affairs editor Annette Young. “And so far it is failing to do that.”
In signs that the hard right was starting to coalesce around Romney despite widespread suspicion that he is a moderate posing as a conservative, certain influential Republican figures like incendiary talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh and Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin leapt to Romney’s defence. “Why would Gingrich ... attack Mitt Romney on free-market capitalism, which is at the centre of the modern Republican Party?” Rubin wrote.
The branding of Romney, by rivals within his own party, as a symbol of corporate heartlessness has offered a preview of what the candidate may face in the upcoming primaries, as well as in a general election against Obama.
Romney himself seemed to anticipate what will likely be an ongoing line of attack against him, earning resounding applause by declaring in his victory speech: “President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial….In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him.”
Portraying Romney as a predatory executive may slow his momentum in South Carolina, where the unemployment rate is above 9%, a bit more than it did in New Hampshire, where the jobless rate sits at 5.2% -- comfortably below the nationwide figure.
But with Paul, Santorum, and Gingrich still angling to become the anti-Romney candidate, and little consensus emerging among voters as to which one of those has the best shot, it looks unlikely that the dynamics of the race will change significantly before the South Carolina primary on January 21.
As Crowther pointed out, “The money lies very much with Mitt Romney. He’s got an organisation waiting for him in the states coming up.”
Romney, meanwhile, seemed to be bracing himself for what lies ahead and preparing to maintain what has so far been a mostly successful run. “Tonight we celebrate,” he told cheering supporters as votes trickled in. “Tomorrow we go back to work.”
Date created : 2012-01-11