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NH results: Ron Paul is the real Anti-Romney

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Cross-posted from AMERICAblog Elections: The Right's Field

NH Results:

Mitt Romney 39.4% (94,255)
Ron Paul: 22.8% (54,513)
Jon Huntsman: 16.9% (40,388)
Newt Gingrich: 9.4% (22,518)
Rick Santorum: 9.3% (22,293)
Rick Perry: 0.7% (1,688)

A few thoughts...

Attention reporters: Mitt Romney is not the first Republican non-incumbent to win Iowa and New Hampshire, as Romney neither got the most votes in Iowa (Rick Santorum did) nor did he get the most delegates (Ron Paul did). Please stop saying Romney won Iowa! Of course, part of the reason this is happening is Rick Santorum waited way to long to give his victory speech and this allowed what would have been the story of the Santorum upset become a story of Romney eeking it out.

The Santorum Surge is over. Santorum made a huge mistake trying to compete in New Hampshire, where a Romney victory was always clear and where Huntsman had already taken up residence. Now Santorum is in the tough spot of trying to ride momentum that no longer exists into a state where all the Anti-Romney's will be fighting for survival.

As Ari Melber notes, Ron Paul is showing to be incredibly strong across a wide range of Republican and independent constituencies. Noting Paul outperformed the field with lower-income voters and McCain voters, Melber writes:

Yet Paul's opponents are strong opponents, the thinking goes, so he would not be accepted by the rest of Republicans. But is that true? You'd have to ask them. The exit pollsters did, and overall, regardless of personal preference, more voters said they would be "satisfied" with a Paul nomination than Gingrich or Santorum. Now, that could reflect some ignorance about Paul's record and ideas, but if the press is going to cover the strength of Paul's campaign on earth, and not its hypothetical vulnerabilities, then it's time to report the reality of his wide appeal in this race so far.

This raises the fundamental dynamic of the race at this point. Clearly Mitt Romney is the front-runner. There has been a lot of competition for the spot of Anti-Romney, but no clear winner. Perry, Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann, and Cain have all been competing for the job of Anti-Romney, under the presumption that if there was conservative unification around an Anti-Romney, that person could defeat Romney for the nomination.

To this point, it's looked like Ron Paul existed as someone outside of the Anti-Romney race as his own creature without strong overlap into more traditional parts of the Republican base. But the results of Iowa and New Hampshire belie this. Ron Paul is showing strong and he could actually coalesce support as the Anti-Romney, at least if politicians and pundits look at what voters are saying. Paul would have to start getting support from people like Gingrich, Santorum and Perry for him to have a shot at this. Frankly I don't see that happening.

South Carolina will be interesting in that it could be the last chance for an Anti-Romney to emerge. That should lead Gingrich, Santorum and Perry to go hard after Mitt. But if Ron Paul performs another strong second, it's hard to not see the writing on the wall of him as the real Anti-Romney in the race.

In the end it looks most likely that Romney will be the Republican nominee not because it was his turn or because he was the most popular candidate, but that the conservative base was fractured across multiple Anti-Romneys who couldn't get it together to unite behind one person to defeat Romney.

Cross-posted from AMERICAblog Elections: The Right's Field

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