Mitt Romney firmly established himself as the Republican presidential frontrunner with a "decisive" win in New Hampshire's primary Tuesday. He secured about 39 percent of the vote, an impressive 16 points ahead of his nearest rival, libertarian long-shot Ron Paul. But before the race moves on toward South Carolina, here's a look at the winners and losers in New Hampshire — and the one man who arguably earned a spot in both categories:
"Expectations were high for Romney, and he met them," says John Dickerson in Slate. The best news for Team Rombot? He won "virtually every major demographic," says John Avlon in The Daily Beast: Catholics, evangelicals, over-30 voters — "Romney even won Tea Party supporters," despite their "long-simmering distrust" of the man Newt Gingrich and conservative commentators have disdained as a "moderate." "Ready for prime time" Romney can finally "start to credibly make the case that he can unite his party after all."
He didn't win the gold, but "for Paul, or any other candidate for that matter, a strong second place finish on Romney's own New England turf" is just as good, says Kenneth Rapoza in Forbes. After Paul's strong third place showing in Iowa, the Libertarian Texan "has a fighting chance to dethrone Romney," especially if — when — other non-Romneys drop out from the race. And in "good news for Paul," he won independents and the youth vote by large margins. Certainly, "Paul has the money and the volunteers and the energy to take this all the way," says Andrew Sullivan in The Daily Beast. This could conceivably "get fun."
Mitt Romney's meticulously coiffed hair got an anthropomorphic shout-out, thanks to Jesse Adelman at McSweeney's. A sample: "I am Mitt Romney's haircut. This is my year, and I will not be denied. Everything about me is presidential. You may not even know why, but you've all thought it, and that's no accident. I've been designed precisely for this moment. I'm a hybrid of every classic American presidential hairstyle since the 1930s. Roosevelt's fatherly gray temples. Kennedy's insouciant bouffant. Reagan's lethal, revolutionary amalgam of feathering and pomade."
Romney "should be raising his arms in unalloyed triumph tonight," but instead he leaves New Hampshire "battered and bleeding," says Alex Koppelman in The New Yorker. His rivals have been "systematically tearing apart the private-sector experience that had been Romney's chief virtue," softening him up for Obama's inevitable attacks. And leave it to "Rombot 3.0" to look "weak even when he wins," says Paul Begala in The Daily Beast. Given that one of his "mansions" is in the state, that he was governor of neighboring Massachusetts, and that his competition "is so weak it would make a lame old plowhorse look like Secretariat," he should have done much better.
Huntsman placed all his chips on New Hampshire, and he lost, coming in third place, 20 points behind Romney. If Obama's former China envoy "couldn't break through in the state he's been camped out in and that seems to suit his candidacy," says Jonathan Bernstein in The Washington Post, he'll "presumably drop out sooner rather than later." Still, Huntsman deserves some credit, says Maggie Haberman in Politico. He "went from cellar-dweller in the polls to third place in a matter of about two weeks," which "justifies his decision to keep going, at least through South Carolina." Too bad a new PPP poll puts Hunstman below comedian Stephen Colbert in the Palmetto State, says Politico's M.J. Lee. That's "not a joke, but it's kind of funny."
Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich
Santorum followed up his "magical finish at the Iowa caucuses" with a disappointing tie for fourth with Gingrich, says David Catanese in Politico. "The paltry 10 percent he registered [in New Hampshire] sucks away much of the momentum he earned last week," and may doom him in South Carolina. Together, he and Gingrich got fewer votes than Ron Paul. Adding insult to injury, almost nobody showed up at Gingrich's primary-night party, says Lloyd Grove in The Daily Beast. Mere "dozens of Gingrich supporters" in the massive hotel ballroom — undoubtedly booked when he was ahead in the Granite State — were outnumbered by reporters, "political tourists from out of state, random hotel guests, and even a former chairman of the state Democratic Party." Ouch.
The Republican Party
Voter turnout was much lower than expected, maybe even lower than in 2008, says Nate Silver in The New York Times. Worse, "a higher fraction of voters — about half this year, compared to 37 percent in 2008 — are independents." Adds Michael Barone in The Washington Examiner: Even if Democratic enthusiasm is even lower — a big if — fewer Republicans coming out in a year when they should be pumped up is something the GOP "should be concerned about." Maybe the GOP "turned out their base too early: In 2010, not 2012," says Jon Fasman in The Economist.