COMMENTARY | As we close in on the final hours of the 2012 New Hampshire primary campaign season there seems to be no real reason to watch Tuesday’s returns. Spoiler alert: Mitt Romney wins Ron Paul takes second. Right now the only real question is whether or not it’s Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman who takes third. According the latest numbers at RealClearPolitics.com Romney currently holds a lead of more than 18 points. He’s currently the candidate of choice for an apparent 38 percent of New Hampshire residents. Paul’s numbers meanwhile have been climbing steadily over the last month to nearly 20 percent, approximately 8 1/2 percent higher than his nearest competitors, Huntsman and Santorum. Santorum, who saw his New Hampshire numbers more than double after a near win in Iowa, appears to be the latest GOP/conservative flavor of the week.
Numbers aside, New Hampshire figures to be a non-factor for undecided Republicans still searching for a candidate other than Mitt Romney. Romney’s platform seems to mesh with the stereotypical moderate conservative set of values found in the northeast portion of the country much more so than say Rick Santorum. Couple that with an enormous amount of time spent on the ground in New Hampshire (including the fact that he even owns a home in the Granite State), and the fact that Romney’s home state of Massachusetts lies immediately to the south, it should be no surprise Romney’s held the lead for the entirety of the current campaign cycle. It seems the former governor’s recipe for success at the polls will be one consisting of one part values, one part campaign time/money, and one part proximity to home.
Personally speaking, the race for South Carolina is shaping up to be the race to watch. Everyone’s known for months that barring a major public relations catastrophe Romney will take New Hampshire. Once he heads down the Eastern Seaboard things should get interesting. The Palmetto State’s population of GOP voters tends to lean more conservative than Romney has proven himself to be. One has to believe this is part of the reason why the Rick Perry campaign opted to bypass the more moderate state of New Hampshire all together and focus their efforts on South Carolina. What should be interesting in the lead up to the Jan. 21 primary will be watching Romney attempt to prove himself as the fiscal, and more importantly the social, conservative candidate Republicans have been searching for, while candidates such as Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry rob each other of votes and the Republican party of a traditional conservative candidate.