Mitt Romney scored an expected win, but benefited greatly from being able to give his victory speech early in the evening when a large audience was watching. He sounded well-practiced, interesting, and sharp. My guess is that many people saw him give the speech and felt they would be satisfied to see him take on the president.
Ron Paul doesn’t get the attention his campaign may merit because it is so unlikely that he will gain the nomination, and because he doesn’t have a big political future ahead of him. Too few are thinking about what his success means for the libertarian movement. Ron Paul’s determined efforts appear to be building libertarianism into a stronger segment of the Republican coalition. But, at the same time, there were moments in his speech — when he talked about the Fed, for example — when it seemed he was just letting the freak flag fly. The libertarian movement will find its Barack Obama (a charismatic ideologue to carry the message), just as the socialists found theirs. Ron Paul 2.0 or 3.0 might make a mark in America’s future.
Jon Huntsman did what he had to do to stay alive, with a solid third-place finish. Too few conservatives realize that his record is more conservative than his rhetoric has been. But his speech was really lacking; one would think that a campaign would be ready for its one spotlight moment. Huntsman’s wasn’t.
Santorum and Gingrich are splitting the votes of those nostalgic for the glory of 1994. Of the two, Santorum has more potential going forward. His showing was sufficient to demonstrate that he can maintain some of the momentum he picked up in Iowa. If it is possible for the conservative vote to coalesce against Romney, he is looking more and more like the one most likely to do it. But people are making their peace with Mitt Romney. The anti-Mitt camp is very rapidly running out of time, if not money.
Rick Perry was my governor when I lived in Texas. It is like a Texas A&M Aggie to stay in the race and not give up in the face of adversity. It makes sense on paper to think that he could make a stand in South Carolina, but Gingrich and Santorum are eating up his vote, and being irrelevant to New Hampshire hasn’t helped him, even if it was part of the plan.
— Hunter Baker is the author of The End of Secularism and associate professor of political science at Union University.
For the past year, the question has been whether Mitt Romney would be acceptable to the Republican party. We pined for other candidates, of ever diminishing plausibility, to enter the race. We “speed dated” any number of non-Romneys among the declared candidates, only to find each unsatisfactory in turn.
Some pundits continue to dream of a great conservative hope who will enter the race and save us from Romney — perhaps even at a brokered convention.
But the voters have now had two opportunities to speak. Two thirds of voters in New Hampshire said they were satisfied with the field. Romney has won a solid victory there. He succeeded with Tea Party supporters and self-described conservatives.
And now Newt Gingrich has offered Romney a gift. By attacking him from the left as a heartless tycoon, he has given Romney the chance to campaign as the defender of capitalism and free markets. This will burnish Romney’s conservative credentials and serve him well in South Carolina and elsewhere.
While it’s too early to say the race is sewn up, it is looking very good for Mitt Romney.
— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.