✔Mitt Romney 39% Ron Paul 23% Jon Huntsman 17% Newt Gingrich 9% Rick Santorum 9% Rick Perry 1% Buddy Roemer 0% Write-In 0% Michele Bachmann 0% Fred Karger 0% Kevin Rubash 0% Gary Johnson 0% Herman Cain 0% Others 0%
✔Barack Obama (Incumb.) 82% Write-In 10% Ed Cowan 2% Vermin Supreme 1% Randall Terry 1% Cornelius E. O'Connor 1% John D. Haywood 1% Craig Fries 1% Bob Ely 1% Others 2%
So Who’s Up, Who’s Down, and Who’s Out?
Obama’s 82 percent may look less-than-overwhelming to those who want to view it that way, but it compares favorably to the 80 percent George W. Bush took in 2004, and is right in line with the 84 percent Bill Clinton took in 1996. All three men had the overwhelming support of their parties behind them, despite (in the case of Bill and Barack) some grumbling from the usual suspects.
Obama’s not just up because he trounced Vermin Supreme, though. He’s also up because the Republican primary has devolved into a game of throw-wild-haymakers-at-Romney. More on Mitt in a minute, of course — but suffice to say that a great cheer went up in Chicago when Rick Perry — Rick Perry! — called what Romney did at Bain “vulture capitalism.” Will the Obama campaign run Newt calling Mitt a liar on infinite loop from June through November? Yes. Yes they will.
Paul rebounds somewhat from his disappointing Iowa showing, coming in second in friendly territory. 23 percent won’t set the world on fire, but it’s good enough for him to keep trudging on.
If Paul were a conventional Republican, he’d be clearly Romney’s most dangerous opponent. But of course, he isn’t — and just as Mitt has seemed to have a ceiling, Paul does too. And while the GOP may unify behind Mitt because, well, he at least pretends to be a doctrinaire conservative, Paul is not going to get the same benefit of the doubt.
The big question is whether Paul will bolt for a third party run. I’m kind of thinking no, simply because it would screw things up for Rand. But we’ll see.
From one point of view, Romney did well in New Hampshire. He pretty much met expectations, Ron Paul finished second, Newt and Santorum finished way back. Mitt basically tied Iowa and won New Hampshire; if he can win South Carolina, he should be the nominee.
But from a more important standpoint, Mitt’s finish in New Hampshire was disastrous. Because for the last 72 hours leading up to the vote, Mitt was on the defensive — and was doing a disastrous job of defending himself. What’s more, his GOP opponents were blasting him, not from the right, but from the left — attacking his “vulture capitalist” days at Bain Capital.
That this line of attack was so open — and that Mitt had no real answer, other than to mutter about “envy” — had to send a chill down the spine of the humans Mitt picked to run his campaign. Because this will be Obama’s attack, an attack that Mitt’s been preparing for since 2008, and Mitt looks utterly unable to parry it.
Will it kill him in the GOP primaries? Probably not. The party’s been drinking from the well of Objectivism for too long to turn on Mitt now. But will it hurt him with the vast majority of the country that recognizes wealth inequality as a problem? You bet your sweet bippy.
If Mitt had something else to offer save business acumen, that wouldn’t be fatal. But he doesn’t. Much as the swift boat attacks on Kerry damaged his raison d’être, so these attacks damage Mitt’s — and these attacks, unlike the swift boaters, are true, and backed by Mitt’s closest ideological allies. It would be as if Howard Dean, mad about losing Iowa, had launched the swift boat attacks in February of 2004. It would have destroyed Kerry. And this will destroy Mitt.
Santorum dropped precipitously from his Iowa finish, and stumbled badly during the week leading up to it. He’s not dead until after South Carolina, but he’s not going to get far if he keeps trying to explain that he didn’t say black, but blah or plives or to blave or what have you.
The good news for Santorum is that South Carolina really is more fertile ground for his particular brand of evil than New Hampshire. He’ll run into fewer students attacking him for hating gay people and more, well, people who hate gay people. But because of that, he doesn’t have an excuse if he tanks there; he will have to finish at worst a strong third behind Paul to remain even quasi-viable.
Gingrich eked out a fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, and has some financial backing going into South Carolina that should help him remain barely alive. But he’s clearly an also-ran at this point, having finished out of the money in both early tests.
The real question is whether that matters to Newt at this point, and I think the answer is no. I think he really is pissed off at Mittens for going negative, and that he’s adopted a new campaign slogan of “to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” Newt is out to destroy Mitt, and if he can’t do it in the primary, he’ll do it for the general.
That’s what the attacks on Mitt’s Bain record do. Some have suggested this inoculates Mitt against Obama attacks; I think just the opposite. It mainstreams Obama’s attacks, because all Obama has to do is quote Newt. And Newt is very quotable.
Which is why I hope he stays in the race indefinitely. Can he win? Probably not. But the longer he stays in, and the more bitter he gets, the better it is for the Democrats.
Rick Perry (again)
Rick Perry went back to Texas to reassess his campaign. And after reassessing it, he decided it was super-awesome, and he should keep going.
That was not a good reassessment.
The problem, of course, is that “reassess” doesn’t mean “reassess” in American political kabuki. It means “I quit.” And you can’t come back from quitting. Nobody likes a quitter. And Rick Perry quit.
He’s done. Completely and utterly done. If he was smart, he’d quit now. But he’s Rick Perry, alas.
The sad thing is, I don’t know why he soldiers on. I understand why some of the other hopeless candidates continue. Santorum thinks he can actually win. Gingrich is out for vengeance. Paul wants to build his cult of paleoconservatives. Buddy Roemer is running for…whatever reason it is Buddy Roemer’s running. But Perry? What’s he accomplishing, other than to create anti-Mitt ringtones? I don’t get it. I don’t get it at all.
Karger drew less than 1 percent in New Hampshire, below Michele Bachmann, who wasn’t running, and just ahead of Kevin Rubash, who may or may not exist. Karger was never a viable candidate for the presidency; this underlines it.
Roemer is the Mike Gravel of 2012, and there’s no doubt about it. Indeed, given that we long ago determined that Mike Gravel was a surrealist performance artist, it’s entirely possible that Buddy Roemer is, in fact, just a character created by Mike Gravel, sort of the Borat to 2008’s Ali G. I can’t wait for the video where he throws a rock into a fire.
Had I but known he was running, I would have mentioned him in power rankings; alas, this probably isn’t a strong enough showing to go on.
That Anti-Choice Douchebag
That guy got less than 1 percent (he gets to 1 in the rundown only by rounding), and finished behind both Vermin Supreme and Ed Cowan, who appears to be your general, run-of-the-mill vanity candidate. To top it off, he’s planning to run grisly anti-choice ads on the Super Bowl, because nothing rallies people to your side than video versions of the anti-choice ads that everybody, including anti-choicers, despises.
Remember, his goal was to embarrass Obama by proving there are a bajillion anti-choicers out there who hate him. Well, he proved that he can motivate an army that is almost as large as the one mobilized by Vermin Supreme. His pathetic last act in American life thus played out, let him scuttle back under the rock from which he crawled.