Mitt Romney is two for two in the 2012 Republican presidential nominating process. On Tuesday, as expected, Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts and co-founder of the Bain Capital asset-management and venture-capital firm, bested five challengers in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary balloting. Romney’s glide to victory in the Granite State, although predictable, was an important win, adding to his momentum toward the nomination and likely to encourage more Republican voters to accept his candidacy and focus on attempting to defeat President Barack Obama in the general election.
Absent a major campaign gaffe or a unified anti-Romney presence that deals him a surprise defeat in the South Carolina primary Jan. 21, Romney more than likely will be the Republican nominee.
The libertarian Texas Rep. Ron Paul finished second in New Hampshire thanks in large measure to voters under age 30. One exit poll gave Paul 47 percent of the 18 to 29 vote.
New Hampshire was the second stop of this year’s GOP presidential campaign trail after the Iowa Caucuses, in which Romney prevailed by eight votes over Rick Santorum. Romney’s victory marked the first time a GOP presidential candidate, other than an incumbent president, has won in Iowa and New Hampshire, back to back.
Romney’s New England Republican persona meshed well with voters in New Hampshire, where he is a “homeboy,” as one rival, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, said.
Speaking to an excitable crowd of supporters after he was projected the winner Tuesday night, Romney’s remarks sounded like he was already running in a general election campaign. The focus of the election, he said, will be the “disappointing record of a failed president.”
“This president puts his faith in government; we put our faith in the American people,” he said.
Looking ahead, Romney was in first place in South Carolina, with 27 percent of likely GOP primary voters, a Rasmussen poll released last Friday showed. South Carolina is perhaps the last opportunity for anti-Romney Republicans to derail his momentum but, for now, Romney looks poised for a victory there, too.
After South Carolina comes Florida on Jan. 31, the first large-state primary. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University and released Jan. 9 shows Romney preferred by 36 percent of respondents. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich followed with 24 percent, the former Pennsylvania senator Santorum polled 16 percent, Rep. Paul 10 percent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry 4.5 percent and Huntsman 1.5 percent.
Nationally, Romney is also in first place, with 29 percent, according to the latest Rasmussen survey.
Romney’s campaign momentum seems unstoppable. Conservatives may have lost their chance to elect an alternative, and those of us critical of Romney’s record may have to live with that. The primaries this month in South Carolina and Florida will decide.