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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French voters face a choice: Thatcherism or fascism

Today's Morning Call. 

Francois Fillon has been handed the task of saving France from a Marine Le Pen presidency and, by extension, the European Union from collapse, after a landslide win over Alain Juppé in the second round of the centre-right Republican party primary, taking 67 per cent of the vote to Juppé's 33 per cent. 

What are his chances? With the left exhausted, divided and unpopular, it's highly likely that it will be Fillon who makes it into the second round of the contest (under the French system, unless one candidate secures more than half in the first round, the top two go to a run off). 

Le Pen is regarded as close-to-certain of winning the first round and is seen as highly likely to be defeated in the second. That the centre-right candidate looks - at least based on the polls - to be the most likely to make it into the top two alongside her puts Fillon in poll position if the polls are right.

As I explained in my profile of him, his path to victory relies on the French Left being willing to hold its nose and vote for Thatcherism - or, at least, as close as France gets to Thatcherism - in order to defeat fascism. It may be that the distinctly Anglo-Saxon whiff of his politics - "Thatcherite Victor vows sharp shock for France" is the Times splash - exerts too strong a smell for the left to ignore.

The triumph of Brexit in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump in the United States have the left and the centre nervous. The far right is sharing best practice and campaign technique across borders, boosting its chances. 

Of all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most avoidable, so I won't make one. However, there are a few factors that may lie in the way of Le Pen going the way of Trump and Brexit. Hostility towards the European project and white  racial reaction are both deeply woven into the culture and politics of the United Kingdom and the United States respectively. The similarities between Vote Leave and Trump are overstated, but both were fighting on home turf with the wind very much at their backs. 

While there's a wider discussion to be had about the French state's aggressive policy of secularism and diversity blindness and its culpability for the rise of Le Pen, as far as the coming contest is concerned, the unity of the centre against the extremes is just as much a part of French political culture as Euroscepticism is here in Britain. So it would be a far bigger scale of upheaval if Le Pen were to win, though it is still possible.

There is one other factor that Fillon may be able to rely on. He, like Le Pen, is very much a supporter of granting Vladimir Putin more breathing space and attempting to reset Russia's relationship with the West. He may face considerably less disruption from that quarter than the Democrats did in the United States. Still, his campaign would be wise to ensure they have two-step verification enabled.

A WING AND A PRAYER

Eleanor Mills bagged the first interview with the new PM in the Sunday Times, and it's widely reported in today's papers. Among the headlines: the challenge of navigating  Brexit keeps Theresa May "awake at night", but her Anglican faith helps her through. She also lifted the lid on Philip May's value round the home. Apparently he's great at accessorising. 

THE NEVERENDING STORY

John Kerr, Britain's most experienced European diplomat and crossbench peer, has said there is a "less than 50 per cent" chance that Britain will negotiate a new relationship with the EU in two years and that a transitional deal will have to be struck first, resulting in a "decade of uncertainty". The Guardian's Patrick Wintour has the story

TROUBLED WATERS OVER OIL

A cross-party coalition of MPs, including Caroline Lucas and David Lammy, are at war with their own pension fund: which is refusing to disclose if its investments include fossil fuels. Madison Marriage has the story in the FT

TRUMPED UP CHARGES?

The Ethics Council to George W Bush and Barack Obama say the Electoral College should refuse to make Donald Trump President, unless he sells his foreign businesses and puts his American ones in a genuine blind trust. Trump has said he plans for his children to run his businesses while he is in the Oval Office and has been involved in a series of stories of him discussing his overseas businesses with foreign politicians. The New York Times has detailed the extentof Trump's overseas interests. 

TODAY'S MORNING CALL...

...is brought to you by the City of London. Their policy and resources chairman Mark Boleat writes on Brexit and the City here.

CASTROFF

Fidel Castro died this weekend. If you're looking for a book on the region and its politics, I enjoyed Alex von Tunzelmann's Red Heat, which you can buy on Amazon or Hive.

BALLS OUT

Ed Balls was eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing last night, after finishing in the bottom two and being eliminated by the judges' vote.  Judge Rinder, the daytime TV star, progressed to the next round at his expense. 

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Helen reviews Glenda Jackson's King Lear.

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Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.