As expected, the Republican field did not offer a lot of competition for front-runner Mitt Romney in New Hampshire. The pundits were saying anything under 40% was bad for Romney, but he was close enough, with 39.3%. He has endured a couple of bad days as a consequence of saying that he liked to fire people (taken somewhat out of context), but he is so strong across the board, and his fundraising is so good, that it is hard to see how he gets derailed. South Carolina is the likeliest place. The results: Romney 39.3% Paul 22.9% Huntsman 16.9% Gingrich 9.4% Santorum 9.4% Perry 0.7% Bachmann 0.1% **** HOW THEY PERFORMED Romney — He met expectations, which were in the range of 40%. Paul — He gets his share of the vote every time. His voters always show up. He is positioning himself to be a spoiler, or a power broker, at the Republican convention and possibly a threat to run an independent candidacy. He is right that we are spending far too much on foreign bases around the world, and the message resonates with the young. Why do we have a huge base in Germany? The Russians are not going to invade. The hot spots we have to worry about are the Korean peninsula and Afghanistan–not because of the Taliban, but because of its proximity to Pakistan, an unstable ally–and the Strait of Hormuz. Huntsman — This race was a dress rehearsal for 2016, when he’ll be a real force. He’s extremely intelligent and has considerable personal wealth. He’ll be back. Gingrich — He won’t be back. About all that can be said for him is that he is an excellent debater. That carried him a long way, but not long enough, though he still has a chance to prove something in South Carolina and Florida later this month. Santorum — He got the same percentage as Gingrich, but the difference is that Santorum has a constituency: the evangelicals who are so important in Iowa and South Carolina, two early primary states. Plus, he’s not in office; he has all the time in the world to go around the country and become better known. If he has staying power, he can be in the mix in 2016. Perry — All of the damage suffered by Perry was self-inflicted. He ruined his own brand. He could make a comeback in 2016, but he is going to have to develop gravitas. One of the problems with the Perry campaign is that he ran for president as if he were running for governor of Texas. He needs to spend a lot of time traveling around the country — not with that ridiculous security detail, and not to Republican fundraisers, but with one or two travel aides. He needs to learn that the rest of the country isn’t like Texas, it’s not a bunch of evangelicals, and, as a matter of fact, most Americans don’t care for swaggering Texans with big egos. If he is going to have a future, he is going to have to learn how to come across as presidential, something he never did. He could practice debating every now and then, too. Bachmann — Is there anything left to say?
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