5 things to take from the New Hampshire primary

Mitt Romney has won by a substantial margin. What does this victory mean for the rest of the primary

"We made history," Mitt Romney told supporters last night as he celebrated his double digit win in the New Hampshire primary. It is certainly a rare feat for a non-incumbent Republican to win both Iowa and New Hampshire (he is the first to do so since 1976).

The victory cemented his frontrunner status, but what exactly does it mean for the rest of the race? Here are five facts we can take from this.

1. The inevitability is building

It was a foregone conclusion that Romney would perform well in this state, which neighbours his own, Massachusetts. He managed to scoop up 39 per cent of the vote in New Hampshire, despite never previously getting more than 25 points in opinion polls.

Exit polls suggested that support for Romney came from across the ideological spectrum, with 48 per cent of his support coming from "very conservative" voters, and 37 per cent from people identifying themselves as "moderate to liberal". This makes it difficult to identify a clear weak spot in his support. Republicans across the board appear to believe that Romney is the candidate most capable of beating Obama.

2. There is no clear rival

While winning the first two primaries will make Romney the candidate that undecided voters in South Carolina are most likely to tilt towards, it remains a deeply conservative state, and Romney remains a moderate conservative.

However, there is no clear conservative alternative. Rick Santorum surged in Iowa, but that failed to manifest in a repeat performance in New Hampshire, where he won less than 10 per cent of the vote (see below for full breakdown of the results). He and Newt Gingrich -- who invested a lot in this state -- were essentially tied in fourth place: New Hampshire rejected both of them.

Although either could still perform well in South Carolina, the fact that the Republican opposition to Romney is fractured will work in his favour.

The field is in disarray: Jon Huntsman trailed in third place despite staking most of his scant resources on the state. Despite limited funds, he has vowed to fight on.

3. Obama need not worry -- yet

Romney won by a large margin in New Hampshire. In his victory speech, he essentially ignored his Republican rivals and focused on criticism of Obama, all part of a plan to build a sense of inevitability around his campaign.

Yet Obama's re-election team can take comfort from the fact that reports suggest a relatively low turnout in New Hampshire. The final figures have yet to be collated but this cements the impression given by opinion polls leading up to the primary race that none of the candidates have managed to ignite much enthusiasm among Republican voters.

4. Attack lines are sharpening

The benefit of having five other candidates still vying for the status of lead rival is clear. But on the downside, it means that attacks on Romney are being refined and sharpened.

Potentially the most damaging of these relate to his time at Bain Capital. Newt Gingrich has accused Romney of presiding over the "looting" of companies during this time, and Rick Perry said these corporate restructuring firms were "vultures". Attack videos have labelled him as "ruthless" and intimated that he was esponsible for the loss of jobs. This did not translate into a reduced vote share for Romney in New Hampshire and it is not yet clear how it will play out over the primaries, but it is certainly possible that it will become more of an issue. If Romney makes it to the national contest, Democrats will attack him on this issue from the left.

Romney, then, did not emerge from New Hampshire unscathed, and the race will only get dirtier from here on in: it is in South Carolina that he will face his first crush of negative ads.

5. Ron Paul cannot be ignored

The libertarian Texan has long been dismissed as a crank, but this is the second poll in which he has finished with more than 20 per cent of the vote, coming second in New Hampshire and third in Iowa.

He is the only candidate who matches Romney in the breadth of his organisation across the country, and it is showing. Support for Paul amongst the young has surged because his non-interventionist stance on foreign policy taps into the strong anti-war mood.

Yet doubts remain over his ultimate electability: Romney's team have said they would welcome running against Paul. It remains unlikely that he will emerge victorious in any major contest, but such a strong showing means that the GOP will struggle to ignore him at the convention in Tampa.

The full results

Finally, here is a break down of the results in full:


Click here to enlarge the image.

Source: New York Times




Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Battle for Mosul: will this be the end of Islamic State?

The militant group's grip on power is slipping but it has proved resilient in the past.

The battle for Mosul is the latest stage in the long struggle to defeat Islamic State. The group has been around since the late 1990s in one form or another, constantly mutating in response to its environment. Undoubtedly its ejection from Mosul will be a significant moment in the group’s history, but it is unlikely to be its final chapter. The destruction of the group will only be complete when some fundamental changes occur within Iraq and the war in Syria comes to an end.

IS’s roots go back to a training camp established by the militant Islamist Abu Musab al Zarqawi in the late 1990s in Herat, Afghanistan. Founded as an army to overthrow the apostate regimes of the Levant, it fled to northern Iraq in the wake of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan post-9/11 where it re-established itself as a force alongside Ansar al Shariah, a hardline Salafi jihadi organisation.

As American attention shifted from Afghanistan to Iraq, the group was ideally placed to become one of the leading lights in the post-Saddam Iraqi insurgency. Brutally announcing itself to the world in August 2003 with successive attacks on the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, the UN headquarters and a Shia shrine in Najaf — the latter being the deadliest attack in Iraq that year with a death toll of 95 — the group grew to assume the mantle of al-Qaeda in Iraq. By 2006 this brand had become somewhat damaged through the brutal sectarian campaign the group waged, and when its founder, Zarqawi, died it sought to reinvent itself as the Mujahedeen Shura Council. This incarnation did not last long either, and eventually it assumed the title of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), alongside a more Iraqi leadership.

This was the start of a diffcult period in the group's history. Its excesses in Iraq (including indiscriminate slaughter of Shia Muslims to stir sectarian hatred and filmed decapitations of prisoners) lost it local support and led to the tribes in Sunni Iraq rising up and supporting the government in Baghdad's fight back against the group. By 2009, when the west abruptly stopped paying attention and withdrew from Iraq the group was largely perceived as in decline, with the Shia Muslim-led Iraqi government appearing to slowly assert itself more effectively across the country.

The terrorist attacks by the group continued. And the new government started to advance an increasingly sectarian agenda. These two played off each other in a downward spiral that was given a fresh boost of blood when the civil war in Syria erupted in 2011. Drawing on its existing networks (that were leftovers from when Syria was used as a staging point by the organisation to launch attacks into Iraq), the leadership sent a cell to Syria to explore what opportunities existed within the emerging fight there. This cell became the seed that grew into Jabhat al Nusrah and ultimately IS – a label the group adopted when in June 2013 IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi decided it was time to reveal this link between his Iraqi group and Jabhat al Nusrah. This led to divisions and the breaking up of the two organisations.

For IS, however, it was the beginning of an upward trajectory, building on this division to grow itself substantially in Syria (with Raqqa as its capital) and in 2014 taking over Iraq’s second biggest city of Mosul. We then reach the apex of IS’s success and the biggest expansion of the group yet.

It now seems that this growth had a shelf life of just two-and-a-half years. As the group appears to be losing Mosul, it is likely that we will see the beginning of a period of retraction. But this will not be its end – rather, it will flee back to the hills and the ungoverned spaces in Iraq and Syria from where it will continue a persistent terrorist strategy in both countries. Here it will bide its time until the moment presents itself to rise up. Waiting until the governance in Iraq and Syria fails its people again, the group can paint itself as the protector of Sunnis and once more build on that group's disenfranchisement to win supporters and occupy a space vacated by local governments.

IS's grip on power might currently be slipping but as history has shown, it has waxed and waned depending on the context it is operating in. We are now going to see a period of withdrawal, but unless attention is paid by the global community, it will expand again in the future.

Raffaello Pantucci is Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). Visit his website at http://www.raffaellopantucci.com