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:

results

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.

Photo: Getty
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How the Saudis are making it almost impossible to report on their war in Yemen

The conflict is not getting anything like the media attention it deserves.

This article has been co-authored by Ahmed Baider, a fixer based in Yemen's capital Sana’a, and Lizzie Porter, a freelance journalist based in Beirut who is still waiting for a chance to report from Yemen.

Ten thousand people have died. The world’s largest cholera epidemic is raging, with more than 530,000 suspected cases and 2,000 related deaths. Millions more people are starving. Yet the lack of press attention on Yemen’s conflict has led it to be described as the “forgotten war”.

The scant media coverage is not without reason, or wholly because the general public is too cold-hearted to care. It is very hard to get into Yemen. The risks for the few foreign journalists who gain access are significant. And the Saudi-led coalition waging war in the country is doing its best to make it difficult, if not impossible, to report from the area.

Working in Sana’a as a fixer for journalists since the start of the uprisings of the so-called Arab Spring in 2011 has sometimes felt like the most difficult job in the world. When a Saudi-led coalition started bombing Yemen in support of its president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in March 2015, it became even harder.

With control of the airspace, last summer they closed Sana’a airport. The capital had been the main route into Yemen. Whether deliberately or coincidentally, in doing so, the coalition prevented press access.

The media blackout came to the fore last month, when the Saudi-led coalition turned away an extraordinary, non-commercial UN flight with three BBC journalists on board. The team – including experienced correspondent Orla Guerin – had all the necessary paperwork. Aviation sources told Reuters that the journalists’ presence was the reason the flight was not allowed to land.

The refusal to allow the press to enter Yemen by air forced them to find an alternative route into the country – a 13-hour sea crossing.

After the airport closure in August 2016, an immensely complex set of procedures was created for journalists travelling on the UN flights operating from Djibouti on the Horn of Africa into Sana’a. The level of paperwork required offered only a glimmer of hope that the media would be allowed to highlight the suffering in Yemen. Each journalist’s application required visas, permits, return ticket fees of $1,100 per person (later reduced to $250) and a great deal of bureaucracy.

But there were other issues, too: equipment that all journalists take with them to war zones as standard – flak jackets, helmets and satellite phones – were not allowed on the UN flights, increasing fears about operating in the country.

The new arrangement significantly increased the cost and time involved – two things that most media organisations are short of. A team of two would have to budget for several thousand dollars for a week-long reporting trip. This was limiting for even large media organisations with big budgets.

Still, the system worked. A few journalists started to come and cover the situation from the ground. Yemenis were happy to share their stories. On one assignment to villages on the west coast, people ran to talk to us and show us their malnourished children as soon as we arrived. It was obvious from the look in their eyes that they wanted to tell people what had been happening.

That changed after last October, when three or four large international media teams had reported from Yemen, broadcasting images of starving children and bombed-out homes to TVs around the world. The Saudi-led coalition began refusing to let journalists fly in with the UN. They said that the flights were for humanitarian workers only, or that the safety of journalists could not be guaranteed. Members of the press who had been preparing trips suddenly had their plans quashed. Time assigned to reporting the conflict had to be given to more accessible stories.

Over the next few months, media access was again opened up, only to be followed by U-turns and further paralysis. And when the Saudi-led coalition did grant access, it was only under certain, excruciating conditions.

As well as a press visa granted by the opposition authorities in the capital, from February this year, journalists have required a second visa granted by the Saudi-backed government in Aden.

It felt impossible. Why would they give press visas for journalists to visit opposition territory? The doubts were proved correct when trying to convince Hadi government officials to issue press access. The consular envoy in Cairo refused. A call to their team in London resulted in another “no”. 

This meant applying to the authorities in Aden for secondary visas for the tenacious journalists who hadn’t already been put off by the cost and access hurdles. One example of the petty requirements imposed was that a journalist’s visa could not be on paper: it had to be stamped into his or her passport. Of course, that added a week to the whole affair.

After months of media blockade, journalists were finally able to access Yemen again between March and May this year. At present, members of the media are officially allowed to travel on the UN flights. But how many more times journalists will be refused entry remains unknown. Not all crews will have the resources to make alternative arrangements to enter Yemen.

The New Statesman interviewed one French documentary producer who has reported from Yemen twice but who has not been able to access the country since 2015, despite multiple attempts.

Upon each refusal, the Saudi-led coalition told the journalist, “to take commercial flights – which didn’t exist…” he explained, requesting anonymity. “Saudi Arabia and its coalition are doing everything they can to discourage journalists as well as organisations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.”

He said that blocking media access was part of the Saudi-led coalition’s strategy to “bring [Yemen] to its knees in an atmosphere of silence and indifference.”

Access is not the only problem. Reporting in Yemen carries great risks. The British Foreign Office warns of a “very high threat of kidnap and unlawful detention from militia groups, armed tribes, criminals and terrorists”. It specifically mentions journalists as a group that could be targeted.

Editors are increasingly nervous about sending journalists into war zones where kidnap is a significant danger. The editorial green light for arranging assignments to Yemen is – understandably – ever harder to obtain.

Although they are willing to work with recognised press teams, the Houthis and Saleh loyalists have also been known to be suspicious of journalists.

“Even before the Saudis banned access to Yemen, it is important to remember that Yemen is one of the most difficult countries for journalists to access,” added the anonymous journalist.

The amount of press attention dedicated to Yemen simply does not reflect the extent of country’s suffering and political turmoil. Journalists’ rights groups, international organisations and governments need to step up pressure on Saudi Arabia to ease media access to the country.

The coalition last month proposed that the UN take control of Sana’a airport, which it refused. Whoever runs it, the hub must be opened, so that journalists can get in, and Yemenis desperately needing medical treatment abroad can get out.

Failing this, coupled with the extreme risks and costs of reporting, the world will never see the graves of 10,000 people. Yemenis will continue to die starving and invisible, in destroyed homes.