Manchester, NH—“Thank you, New Hampshire!” declared Mitt Romney. “Tonight, we’ve made history.”
Romney was talking about how he was the first Republican contender other than an incumbent president to win the Iowa caucuses (by eight votes) and the New Hampshire primary.
But he also made history of a more personal nature.
After forty-five years of trying, a Romney has finally won the first-primary state.
Mitt Romney’s dad, former Michigan Governor George Romney, crashed and burned on the 1968 New Hampshire Republican primary campaign trail. After suggesting that he had been “brainwashed” while on a fact-finding visit to Vietnam, George Romney didn’t even make it to the primary as a serious contender against eventual winner Richard Nixon.
Forty years later, Mitt Romney was the front-runner in the 2008 New Hampshire Republican primary race, until the voters decided they preferred Arizona Senator John McCain.
Now, in 2012, Mitt Romney has won a New Hampshire primary with roughly 39 percent of the vote. That was sixteen points better than Texas Congressman Ron Paul (who won 23 percent), and more than twenty points better than former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman’s 17 percent.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is now attacking Romney as a job-killing “looter” of American manufacturing industries was trailing far behind in fourth place, with the fading star of last week’s Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum, in fifth.
That sounds pretty good for Romney. But just as the vast majority of Iowa caucus-goers (75 percent) voted for anybody but Romney, so the vast majority of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire—a state where he virtually resides, has run twice and had the support of almost all of the old-line party restablishment—voted for anybody but Romney.
Republicans still don’t love this guy.
Unfortunately, New Hampshire did not leave them with many options.
Paul’s finish was credible. It was certainly enough to carry his populist campaign forward—through as many Republican primaries and caucuses as he wants to run in and and potentially as a Libertarian or independent candidate in the fall.
Huntsman’s finish was credible as well—“third place is a ticket to ride,” he declared. But his finish was well short of the second-place “surprise” he was hoping for.
Romney, Paul and Huntsman have their tickets out of New Hampshire.
They’re all headed for the January 21 primary in South Carolina.