Quick Observations on the New Hampshire Primary
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
1. The turnout was lower than in 2008 and almost half of the voters in the Republican primary were independents. That shows, of course, an unexpected lack of enthusiasm among Republicans. They have to hope the enthusiasm is still there for defeating the president, and the problem is the uninspiring cast of candidates.
2. Romney won decisively but nobody thinks he did really well.
3. But most of the rest of the vote went to Paul and Huntsman—who aren't serious challengers for the nomination. That's great news for Romney. So he made great progress toward being nominated without really doing very well.
4. Paul did well and a bit better than expected because the turnout was low and almost half the voters were independents. He didn't do well among actual Republicans, and there won't be another state soon where his situation is so favorable. Don't forget he still lost!
5. Huntsman can't do a darn thing with his little better than unimpressive showing, except maybe wait for 2016.
6. Gingrich and Santorum, Romney's most formidable challengers, did a bit worse than expected (and not much was expected) but not badly enough to drop out. Neither picked up any momentum, and Santorum lost some. It's not clear at all which of them is now the most credible alternative to Romney.
7. So both Santorum and Gingrich go on to South Carolina wounded but not quite in critical condition. They'll probably split the anti-Romney majority of the vote in SC down the middle.
8. That means Romney, once again, might well not do very well but still come in first and make more huge progress toward the nomination.
9. Santorum made the point that Romney is like Dole and McCain. In the cases of Dole and McCain, an old guy got nominated because he had lost before and now it seemed to be his turn. Santorum's advice: Don't nominate another loser for that lame reason.
10. Some (like me) have been saying that 2012 would be different. Flip-floppy Romney won't get the nomination because of the ideological enthusiasm of the Tea Party voters.
11. But it turns out the Tea Party has lacked a credible candidate, and so 2012 is likely not going be so different after all.