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“I thought I was
The New Hampshire comeback king.
But I just handed my comeback crown to hi – im.”
Written off just months ago, New Hampshire voters revived and revved up the Arizona Senator’s campaign with what appears to be shaping up as a strong victory over former Governor Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, Iowa winner former Governor Mike Huckabee, bereft of a strong evangelical presence, finished a distant third. (According to a CNN exit poll, evangelicals made up about 60 percent of Iowa Republican caucus goers, but only about 21 percent of New Hamphsire voters).
My guess is that the GOP — or at least the GOP leadership — will start rallying around Senator McCain. He now stands, ironically given his personality and history, as the most undamaged “traditional” Republican in the race. Conservative, but with an independent streak, his position on social issues could appeal to the GOP’s church going constituency while his pragmatism could appeal to Wall Street going Republicans.
Governor Romney on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be appealing to enough of any constituency resulting in a campaign that has little momentum at all — at least not of the forward variety. To be fair, however, exit polls indicate the Governor got the majority of Republicans casting ballots, but Senator McCain made up more than the difference by earning the support of independent voters (in New Hampshire, independents can choose which primary to participate in on election day, and more than 40 percent of New Hampshire voters belong to neither major party). Huckabee is clearly energizing the social conservative wing of the Republican party, but he has yet to gain much support from the business side of the party. The result, he ran a distant third in New Hampshire.
The wild card is former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It’s hard to envision Republicans nominating a pro-choice, anti-gun, New Yorker, but anything is possible. Mayor Giuliani strategy is either brilliant or fatally flawed. His plan seems to be to avoid the early nominating contests in states like Iowa, New Hampshire and the upcoming South Carolina, let the other candidates engage in an exhausting elimination battle, resulting in one, damaged candidate stumbling into the states where the Mayor is making his stand, like Florida. The danger, however, is that by missing the early events, the Mayor could make himself irrelevant, ceding time to a candidate to become the decisive frontrunner who will barrell into the next wave of primaries sails full and war chest replenished.
Michigan, which holds its primary next Tuesday, January 15th, will be critical. Governor Romney (whose father was governor of the state), Governor Huckabee and Senator McCain have all polled well there at one time or another. The state could propel any of the three front-runners to an all but unassailable position or further muddy the waters.
The next test for the GOP will come just four days later when Nevadans caucus and South Carolina Republicans head for the polls (the Democratic primary in South Carolina is a week later). Will Michigan resurrect Governor Romney? Is resurrection even possible for his campaign? Will South Carolina revive Governor Huckabee? Will he need reviving after Michigan? Can Senator McCain unite the party in less than two weeks? Or will they all stumble into Florida on January 29th where Mayor Giuliani awaits?
Wish I knew, but I can’t wait to find out.