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.

Photo: Getty Images
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Meet the remarkable British woman imprisoned for fighting against Isis

The treatment of Silhan Özçelik shows how confused British policy towards the Middle East has become. 

Last week, a British court sentenced a woman to prison for attempting to join fighters in the Middle East. Silhan Özçelik, an 18-year-old from Highbury, London was sentenced to 21 months for her part in “preparing terrorist acts” under the Terrorism Act 2006. The judge called her a “stupid, feckless and deeply dishonest young woman”.  What all of this misses out is the most extraordinary fact: that Özçelik was not convicted for going to fight for the Islamic State, but for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – better known as the PKK, one of the only effective and consistent opponents of Isis since the war began.

Volunteering to fight in foreign wars – so long as they are long ago enough – is a celebrated tradition in Britain. In the late 1930s, while the Spanish Republic battled on against a fascist coup led by General Franco, tens of thousands of volunteers from all over the world went to fight for the International Brigades, including 2,500 from the UK. They included future celebrities such as writer George Orwell and actor James Robertson Justice, and commemorative plaques and memorials can now be seen all over the country

Like the International Brigade volunteers, Özçelik allegedly volunteered to fight for an embattled state facing military defeat at the hands of a far-right insurgency. The combat units she might have joined have been the subject of moving portraits in the Guardian and even praise on Fox News. The PKK is a secular socialist organisation, with a streak of libertarianism and its own feminist movements. But because of its military opposition to the often brutal Turkish treatment of the Kurds, the western powers list the PKK as a terrorist organisation; and would-be heroes like Silhan Özçelik are detained as criminals by the British state.

On one level, what Özçelik’s conviction represents is a change in how the state relates to ordinary citizens who fight. In 1936, the rise of fascism was something on our doorstep, which was opposed most fervently not by official western governments but by ordinary folk, dangerous far left subversives and free spirited writers who sailed to Spain – often in spite of their own governments. In today’s wars in the Middle East, the state is absolutely determined to maintain its monopoly on the right to sanction violence.

What Orwell and other volunteers understood was that while western governments might promote values like liberty and deplore the rise of tyranny, they were also duplicitous and unreliable when it came to prioritising the defeat of fascism over the narrow interests of nation and profit. Then as now, western governments were  deeply uneasy about the idea of ordinary people taking up arms and intervening in global affairs, or deciding – by force – who governs them. If the Terrorism Act 2006 had applied in 1936, Orwell would surely have been arrested at Dover and sent to prison.

More pressingly for the current situation, the persecution of the PKK should make you think twice about the motivations and outcomes for military intervention in Syria. Cameron is on a march to war, and, following the Paris attacks, much of the political establishment is now lining up to support him.

At the same time, our court system is imprisoning and persecuting young women who try to take up arms against Isis. It is doing so at the behest not of our own national security, which has never been threatened by the PKK, but that of Turkey. Turkey’s military is actively targeting Kurdish forces, and has recently stepped up these attacks. There is a wealth of evidence, not least its behaviour during the recent siege of Kobane, to suggest that Turkey – Britain’s only formal NATO ally in the region – is tacitly collaborating with Isis in an attempt to defeat both Assad and the Kurds.

As the government rushes to war in Syria, much of the media attention will focus on Jeremy Corbyn’s awkward task of holding his anti-war line while persuading his party and Shadow Cabinet not to split over the issue. Others will focus, rightly, on the complexity of the situation in the region and the question of who western air-strikes are really there to support: is it Assad, the murderous dictator whose regime has itself been linked to the rise of Isis; Turkey, which is seemingly focussed entirely on defeating Assad and the Kurds; or the soup of organisations – including the Al-Qaeda franchise in Syria – which constitute the anti-regime rebels?

But Özçelik’s conviction should also raise a more fundamental concern: that the contradictions and complications that we are so used to associating with the Middle East lie at the heart of British and western policy as well. If the British state persecutes, rather than supports, the few secular and progressive organisations in the region who are fighting Isis, whose interests is it really serving? And if we don’t trust those interests, how much trust can we really place in it to act on our behalf in Syria?

You can sign a petition calling for Silhan Özçelik’s release here, and a petition calling for the decriminalisation of the PKK here.