Mitt Romney won a convincing victory in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday night. And soon after news organizations called the race in his favor, Romney took the stage to declare that his campaign "made history" by winning both Iowa and New Hampshire — and to lob "fiery" rhetorical bombs at President Obama and his GOP rivals. But Ron Paul had a good night, too, coming in a strong second place in Romney territory, and giving a rousing speech of his own soon after Romney finished. (Watch both speeches below.) Both men have a plausible claim to winning the night. But who gave the better victory speech? Here, seven talking points:
1. Romney dished out political red meat
This was easily "Romney's best speech," and "the most effective of this campaign," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. By eviscerating both Obama and his "rivals who bizarrely embraced an Occupy Wall Street-like attack on his Bain experience," a fired-up Romney aligned himself squarely with "the Republicans who don't want to apologize for their faith in the free market. That's the right place to be in a GOP primary." But it's the wrong place to be in the general election, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. His "ugly, angry" speech is "the kind of contemptuous, acidic, hyperbolic ad hominem that turns off moderates, independents, and former Obama voters."
2. Paul served up "libertarian revolution"
The Texas congressman's speech "focused not on his bid for the White House but on the goals of the libertarian revolution he espouses," says Catherine Hollander at National Journal. In his most memorable line, Paul told his supporters that he has to "chuckle when they describe you and me as being dangerous. That's one thing they are telling the truth about because we are dangerous to the status quo." He also had the best zinger of the night, thanking the state's most influential paper, the Union Leader — which loudly backed distant fourth-place finisher Newt Gingrich — "for not endorsing me."
3. Romney tied Obama to Europe
"Less subtle conservatives" have accused Obama of being Kenyan and "more African than American," but Romney is clearly bent on tying the president to Europe, says Glenn Thrush at Politico. On Tuesday, he made no fewer than three attempts to "saddle Obama with the baggage of Old World Socialism" and Europe's economic crisis. Those hits were so well-received by the audience that this line of attack was surely "a focus-group home run." Expect to hear more of it. But attacking Europe is so 1980s, says The Daily Beast's Sullivan. And "does Romney know that unemployment in Germany is 5.5 percent?"
4. Paul slammed the Federal Reserve
Unlike Romney, Paul didn't attack Obama or his GOP rivals. Instead, says Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times, Paul's speech "hit on all his favorite libertarian themes, including some that were once too obscure for a presidential campaign, such as abolishing the Federal Reserve." The crowd broke into chants of "End the Fed!" I was "getting that thrill up my leg" when Paul was stumping about ending the status quo, says The Daily Beast's Sullivan, but "then we get to... sound monetary policy and the Fed. Sigh." Love him or hate him, "you can always count on Ron Paul to give a Ron Paul speech on every occasion," says Will Wilkinson at The Economist.
5. Romney was speaking to South Carolina, Paul to his ideals
Mitt gave "the kind of Obama-bashing speech that plays well with partisan conservatives, but not with general-election swing voters," says David Bernstein at The Boston Phoenix. That "suggests that his audience was South Carolina primary voters," which is "probably the smart call — use the over-the-top conservative rhetoric for a little longer" to wrap up the nomination quickly. Paul, meanwhile, used his speech to declare a "victory for the cause of liberty."
6. Paul's crowd looked like a college party, Romney's a Broadway stage
At 76, Paul is "the only rock star on the campaign trail," and it showed on Tuesday, says Kenneth Rapoza at Forbes. "Hundreds of Paul supporters of all ages filled a large dance hall," complete with a DJ and a few costumed revelers, and "there was a line at the bar at least 20 people long at all times. The atmosphere was festive, more like a large bar in a college town on a Friday before Spring Break." Meanwhile, says The Daily Beast's Sullivan, "squint your eyes and the tableau at Romney's celebration looks like a chorus line from The Book Of Mormon."
7. But whose speech was more effective?
Both played well for their intended audiences, says The Economist's Wilkinson. Romney's speech so "perfectly captured what Republicans say they want to hear" that it was "almost awe-inspiring in its smooth deployment of potted tropes." As for Paul, his "dogmatic coherence makes him seem unusually honest." But the Texan's "rambling" speech "wasn't doing Paul any favors so far as picking up new or interested voters," says The Stranger's Paul Constant. Romney's speech was "better delivered than usual," says Pete Spiliakos at First Things. But "even when Romney is at his best, he is giving the speech of a man who just hopes to win by default." Nonsense, says The Washington Post's Rubin. Thanks largely to his rivals' "foolish attacks" on free enterprise, Romney "finally may have found a way to connect with conservatives. That is far more important than the few delegates he picked up" in New Hampshire
Decide for yourself: