After eking out an eight-vote victory in the Iowa caucuses a week ago, Mitt Romney comfortably won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. The news networks called his double-digit victory as soon as the polls closed — making Romney the first nonincumbent Republican in modern history to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. With about a third of the votes counted, Romney had about 37 percent, while his closest competitor, libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), bagged about 23 percent. Jon Huntsman came in third at about 17 percent. Romney won, exit polls show, because the same voters who supported him in Iowa — wealthier, older, more suburban, and less socially conservative citizens — came out in much larger numbers in New Hampshire. But he also "more than doubled his share of the 'strong Tea Party' vote," The Washington Post reports, and finally showed "significant strength among the Republican base." How big of a deal is this historic win for the undisputed GOP frontrunner?
Everything is going Romney's way: "For all the pregame chatter about what number Romney had to hit to avoid the dreaded verdict of underperforming expectations," the frontrunner cruised to victory, says Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast. His win was "all the more striking because he's had a terrible few days" — "battered by his rivals as a heartless corporate chieftain at Bain Capital and blundering by declaring that he likes to fire people." The "drama-hungry press" would have preferred a closer contest, but New Hampshire probably just gifted Romney "the one thing he's been lacking as he was overshadowed by the likes of Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump, and Herman Cain: the aura of a winner."
"Mitt Romney wins big in capturing the New Hampshire primary"
But it was a Pyrrhic victory: Let's call Romney's win "a victory Mitt-igated," says Ron Fournier at National Journal. Yes, he won a historic sweep of the first two GOP contests, but the New Hampshire race "exposed his existential vulnerability: Romney is easily cast as a cold-hearted phony." He's still the favorite to win in South Carolina, and then capture the GOP nomination, but "thanks to his ham-handed New Hampshire campaign, there are doubts. Many, many doubts."
"Victory Mitt-igated: N.H. casts Romney as cold-hearted phony"
It was a good night for Romney — and Paul: Mitt's margin of victory is "healthy enough to erase memories of his Pyrrhic victory in Iowa," says Daniel McCarthy at The American Conservative. But "Ron Paul can also declare victory." Not only did he shatter the "20 percent ceiling" the pundits try to scrunch him under, but the race effectively killed the campaigns of Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum. "Romney looks unstoppable," but what happens when he's in a two-man race with the insurgent Paul? Expect "some interesting rebellions in unlikely places."
"A good night for Paul and Romney"
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