Romney Expands Support In New Hampshire Victory, As Eyes Turn To Socially-Conservative South Carolina
Mitt Romney picked up a decisive win in New Hampshire on Tuesday, gaining 39.4% of the vote. Ron Paul came in second with 22.8%, and Jon Huntsman gained enough to claim a “ticket to ride” with 16.8%.
But looking deeper into those numbers shows more good news for Romney, and bad news for his closest rivals: the former Massachusetts governor picked up support among registered Republicans, and even self-identified “very conservative” voters (although “very conservative” in New Hampshire is often more liberal than elsewhere). Romney even increased his Tea Party and evangelical support in the Granite State compared to Iowa.
Perhaps mostly importantly, he continued his commanding lead in the “beat Obama” category, getting a whopping 62% of voters who prioritize that issue; he also got 45% of voters for whom the economy is the top concern.
While Paul won his highest-profile victory yet, exit polls show his support once again coming from a narrow and tough-to-maintain base. Paul won half of voters under age 30, a demographic that can bring a decisive push, but one that generally doesn’t turn out compared to older voters; and only 10% of seniors went for the doctor.
Both Huntsman and Paul drew large numbers of independents, who are not allowed to vote in several of the upcoming primaries.
Meanwhile, South Carolina’s socially conservative electorate could flip the results once again in their Jan. 21 primary. Early polls show Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum returning to top spots there, while Paul and Huntsman drop. Of course, Mitt Romney is still polling in first place.
Adding insult to injury, one poll has shown that late-night comedian Stephen Colbert would draw more votes in the SC Primary than Huntsman.
What do you think? Does Mitt Romney have the nomination locked up?
[Source: The Washington Post's great coverage and analysis of the exit polls]