New Hampshire Primary sets stage for South Carolina

David Bartholomew

Iowa Caucus winner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire Republican Primary on Tuesday night in a fashion that can only help his case to become the Republican Party presidential nominee.

Garnering almost a hundred thousand votes, or thirty-nine percent of the attendees, Romney beat the second place finisher, Congressman Ron Paul, by more than sixteen percent.

“The New Hampshire Primary put Romney on the path to getting the nomination,” said James McCormick, Chair of the Political Science Department.

The majority of political pundits and professors all agreed before the primary that Mitt Romney was going to win mostly because New Hampshire borders Massachusetts and reflexively the former governor is well known there. That being said, it appears that the focus of the primary was mostly on who was going to finish second to Romney, which in this case was Ron Paul who also finished third last week in the Iowa Caucus. It is believed that a second place finish would bolster that candidate’s credentials just days before the important South Carolina Primary on January 21.

“Romney and Paul are the clear winners [in New Hampshire],” McCormick said. “It showed that Paul definitely has some staying power but on the other hand he is not an immediate threat to Romney … he has kind of hit his ceiling in terms of support.”

Political Science professor Dianne Bystrom also agreed with the analysis that Romney and Paul both came out of New Hampshire with some momentum.

“Romney had a good showing and Paul showed that he wasn’t just a flash in the pan in Iowa,” Bystrom said. “He [Ron Paul] had a good organization and did pretty well in Iowa getting twenty-three percent in New Hampshire.”

After Romney and Paul, former Utah Gov. and Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, who put most of his campaign efforts into New Hampshire, finished a respectable third with seventeen percent of the vote and, despite not finishing second, has vowed to continue his campaign into South Carolina.

“Huntsman put all of his eggs in New Hampshire but he didn’t have a really good showing,” Bystrom said. “After South Carolina I expect him and some other candidates to drop out of the race.”

Rounding out the bottom half of the Primary results were former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum who both received ten percent while Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has spent the majority of his time campaigning in South Carolina, brought in only one percent.

Looking ahead to the South Carolina Primary, the growing consensus is that it could be a make or break moment for Romney and other GOP candidates.

“Given the conservative candidate options are divided among South Carolina voters, I expect Romney will squeak out another win,” McCormick said.

Despite coming off key wins in Iowa and New Hampshire and leading in some polls in South Carolina, Dr. Bystrom pointed out that Romney still has some challenges ahead.

“The road ahead looks good for Romney but he has some key challenges coming up,” Bystrom said. “For one, there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm for him, which is necessary to bring people out to vote in the fall. And two, looking at exit polls from Iowa and New Hampshire, he doesn’t do too well with Tea Party conservatives and independents … Ron Paul did better in these groups than Romney.”

Again, the big test of relevance for the GOP candidates will be the primary on January 21 in South Carolina where, since 1980, no Republican Presidential nominee has received the party’s nomination without winning South Carolina.