Huntsman in Dead Heat With Romney in New Hampshire!

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That’s based on the early voting from Dixville Notch.  I always wanted to do that. In fact, Romney is going to win this. But maybe by not enough.

The last three polls before tomorrow’s (actually – today’s!)  New Hampshire primary are in, and they have both good news and bad news for Mitt Romney.  The bad news is that his support is definitely eroding.  He’s fallen 3%, from 40% to 37% in two days according to this ARG poll.  The rolling Suffolk tracking poll shows him dropping 7% in three days, from 40% to 33%, and WMUR poll has him dropping 3% in 5 days, from 44% to 41%.  And all this was before his widely quoted (but usually out of context) remark today that he likes to fire people.

He was actually making the point that under a free market system we should be able to fire insurance companies that don’t provide adequate health care service,  but why let the facts get in the way of a good campaign moment?

The good news for Romney is that he retains a substantial lead, and that it doesn’t appear that any single candidate is benefitting from his slide.  As  this RealClear politics graph shows, he retains a substantial lead over Ron Paul, one that will be hard to overcome in the last 48 hours (Mitt=purple, Paul=Yellow, Gingrich=green, Huntsman=purple, Santorum=brown):

As the graph shows, and as I noted earlier, there’s some evidence that Huntsman is the primary beneficiary of Romney’s slide, but the Newtster also seems have reversed his polling decline and Paul – although slipping – remains a good bet to finish second, particularly given the evidence that he has a strong organizational presence in New Hampshire.

In short,  I’m sticking by my earlier assessment that the belated decision by Mitt’s opponents to focus on his Bain record won’t be enough to change the outcome in New Hampshire.  But it may be a factor down the road.  As I predicted during my debate coverage, portions of Newt’s exchange with Mitt are already the centerpiece of one of Newt’s campaign videos:

And Newt’s SuperPac is poised to air an almost half-hour long infomercial that takes dead aim at Romney’s  record while CEO at Bain.  Progressives, of course, are chortling that these attack ads are simply making the Democratic case against Romney even easier, but this is nonsense.  Democrats are not stupid – they would have brought Bain up on their own.  Instead, the fact that this is coming out now, in the Republican nomination contest, is good news for Romney – assuming he wins the nomination – because it gives him an opportunity to formulate a response.

New Hampshire, then, is significant not for who wins here – it’s almost certain to be Romney – but for its implications for South Carolina.  That means that the real issue in New Hampshire is who exceeds media expectations. The media frame of the New Hampshire results has important implications for South Carolina. Gingrich has already gone on record that he has to win, or finish a very close second there, to stay in the race.  This is no sure thing.  Keep in mind that while the media tends to portray South Carolina as a “southern Red State”, it actually has a substantial population of Midwest retirees that are more moderate in outlook.  In fact, there’s really three somewhat distinct voting areas in that state.  The bottom line is that Romney could do quite well there.   I’ll develop that point in more detail in a later post.  Later today, however, Bert Johnson will be up with a guest post describing his view of New Hampshire from the ground. We’ll begin our primary-day coverage with Bert’s analysis, and I’ll be on periodically during the day to update results as they come in.

2 Responses to Huntsman in Dead Heat With Romney in New Hampshire!

  1. Olivier Knox says:

    “Progressives, of course, are chortling that these attack ads are simply making the Democratic case against Romney even easier, but this is nonsense. Democrats are not stupid – they would have brought Bain up on their own.”

    That’s true, they would have, but now they can say “sheesh, this isn’t a partisan issue, NEWT GINGRICH called the guy a ‘locust capitalist.’” The GOP primary attacks go a looooong way towards not only laundering the inevitable talking points, but also towards giving the DNC/Obama reelect great video footage to use in the general.

    “Instead, the fact that this is coming out now, in the Republican nomination contest, is good news for Romney – assuming he wins the nomination – because it gives him an opportunity to formulate a response.”

    I normally agree with this, but the Romney camp doesn’t seem to have been all that prepared for this wave of attacks. And that’s not so good, because they’re going to flail for a while. Some of that flailing could turn into bad quotes from Romney (like today’s [paraphrase] relating to voters is silly]. This is a toss-up.

    Cheers from Concord, NH,
    O.

  2. Matthew Dickinson says:

    Olivier – I see your point, but I suspect that whether the Democrats cite Republican footage, or air their own come next fall, it won’t be lost on voters that this is a Democratic ad attacking the Republican nominee. And your point regarding Romney’s lack of preparation regarding how to respond to this is exactly my point – far better to flail now, during the nominating contest, than during the general election campaign. (See Obama, Reverend Wright). Now, if Romney happens to lose the nomination because of his failure to muster a response, I’ll grant you your point. For now, however, I still think it’s better for Romney that this came out now, rather than in October.

    Good luck today…

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