Ok, we are on. It’s 7:48 and the remaining polls are closing in less than 15 minutes. That’s when we should see our first exit polls. Keep in mind that these are not as precise as the commentators sometime imply they are. We’ll be watching the CNN feed tonight, along with a variety of email sources. As always, keep me apprised via comments if you see something coming in that I’ve missed, particular you twitter critters.
7:55 Looks like they have early results already getting released. Reading the early tea leaves, it looks like a long night for Santorum – he’s not pulling the votes in Manchester the way he needs to. Paul is polling well in Concord, but Romney is ahead.
On CNN, the pundits are already openly wondering if the race is over. That is, the entire nomination race!
Just sampling media outlets earlier today, it doesn’t appear that overall turnout is up. Indeed, many people are suggesting turnout is light.
Surprise! 8:00 and CNN is projecting that Romney has won. That’s not the story as yet, of course. We need to see the exit polls.
8:05 Exit polls are just now being discussed. Looks like a stronger night for Paul and – it was will likely be his death knell – a disappointing third for Huntsman. This is especiall the case because it looks like a heavy turnout of independents tonight – roughly equal numbers of Republicans and Independents at about 47% of both. That is giving a big boost to Paul tonight, apparently.
So far, this is not the knockout blow Romney hoped for – it doesn’t look like he’s going to reach the historical benchmark. But I’m not seeing anything from Bedford, or Derry or many southern tier towns that should go heavily for Romney. He could go higher….
8:12 Jeff has a great comment – apparently the pundits are making the Romney is inevitable because he’s won both Iowa and NH. But, in fact, he may not have won Iowa, and so far he’s not even reaching the average winning total in NH. And this is likely to be his best state in the entire contest. I’m just not seeing it.
8:15 The scythe is out for Huntsman – unless he picks up the pace, he’s going to finish a distant third. Not good.
Let’s start parsing the exit polls – the gender break down this time around saw a slight increase in women from 43% in 2008 to 46% this time around…..wait on this: Huntsman is on. And he’s basically stated he will soldier on – he’s not getting winnowed. What does he know that I don’t know? In reading the early returns, I don’t see him finishing second. But maybe Dad said he’ll open the wallet for his son? This isn’t good news for the Mittster.
Back to the exit polls – turnout was up by 6% among the 65 and older crowd as well and, as they did in 2008, they went heavily for Mitt. On the other end, turnout in the youngest age group was flat at 9% (same as 4 years ago), and they went as expected for Paul.
CNN has just removed any remaining suspense for tonight – they are projecting Paul to finish second, and Huntsman third. Looks like the signage evidence that both Bert and I alluded to was a good indicator of Paul’s organizational infrastructure. Keep in mind, however, that this state is an outlier in so many respects. Almost half of those who participated were Independents. If you add in the Democrats (who went for Huntsman, by the way), more than half the voters here were not Republicans. Both Huntsman and Paul drew heavily on these groups, but they aren’t going see these numbers in most contests down the road. The problem for Gingrich and Santorum, of course, is the media is not likely to pick up on this.
8:36 Mitt is on, and he’s talking to South Carolina voters. So far he has not mentioned any of his Republican voters – again, this is part of his long running strategy to create the perception that his nomination is inevitable. So far this speech is all about Obama…
Based on my benchmarks – Mitt is having a good night, but not the great one he hoped for. It will be interesting to see how the pundits play this. Again, media perceptions matter, because that can influence donors’ choices.
Interestingly, fully a quarter of voters made up their minds today, and Romney won those votes 29% to 23% to Huntsman (Paul was third at 19%).
8:44. I’m surprised the pundits aren’t making a bigger deal of Paul’s second place performance.
I’m trying to pull up South Carolina exit polls from 2008 to give you a lay of the land there, but CNN is not cooperating. Off the top of my head, (and you who are from there can correct me) South Carolina is really three states ideologically. As I recall, Huckabee did well in the more “Red State” section in the northwest, while McCain pulled heavily along the coast. I’m guessing Romney will do well among McCain voters down there but the key question is whether he can attract the more conservative, traditional values voters that went for Huckabee four years ago.
9:03 to me the big story tonight is the cross-over vote for Paul. He’s the one that outperformed expectations, but he’s not getting much love from the pundits. He’s on now – let’s see what he says.
Nice – he takes a shot at the Manchester Union Leader (it endorsed Newt, remember).
Keep in mind that Paul’s strategy is to stay in this race, rack up delegates and see what happens come convention time.
Uh oh – Paul is beginning to wax eloquent on monetary policy. This is when he begins to straddle the crazy line….
Too late, he’s on a roll. On CNN, they are showing a meter that tracks a focus groups’ reaction to Paul’s speech. It is going all ovr the place – he gets high ratings when he talks about cutting spending but when he strays into his U.S. as the U.S.S.R. (both “invaded” Afghanistant) the graph drops into negative territory. And still he talks…. this must be what it’s like to listen to one of my lectures.
Except my students don’t chant in unison like this.
It’s easy to see why he did so well in the “Live Free or Die, baby” state. He’s on an extended defense of liberty here – and why not, it’s his time in the sun… . It will be interesting to see how his brand of libertarianism plays in South Carolina… .
9:18. It appears that no one is dropping out after tonight. In my view, the bigger loser tonight should be Huntsman, but he’s not seeing it that way. The other loser, I think, is Gingrich – he is likely to finish 4rth, and I expect his percentage to inch up a little bit as northern towns come in, but he apparently stalled out at about 10% of the vote. He had to hope he could pick up some late votes after his strong debate performance, but it didn’t work out that way.
9:27. We are waiting for Huntsman to come out and give his speech. Frankly, I’m surprised he’s thinking of staying in. As one of the pundits just pointed out, he did well among those who, based on exit polls, “are satisfied with Obama”! Even Paul has a better upside among Republicans than Huntsman does at this point. He went nowhere among the Tea Party crowd. I don’t know why he’s staying in this race.
In looking at the map, we still have lots of votes out along the Connecticut River area near Lebanon. This is potentially a fertile area of votes for Huntsman. The problem is that it is also fertile ground for Paul, so I don’t see that he’s going to close the gap too much as these votes come in.
9:31 Huntsman is on. He’s delusional! Did you see the meter on CNN drop in the negative when he gave a shout out to South Carolina? Even South Carolinians didn’t like him. He’s not graphing well with the South Carolina folks in this speech. Even his chanting chorus is doing better than he is. But, if he stays in, it helps Gingrich, Perry and – if he stays in – Santorum.
9:41 A ten minute, completely forgettable speech. Even the crowd didn’t seem to be in it. But, he’s moving on. so be it.
9:55 With about 62% in, Romney is hovering at 37-38% – that’s closer to the magic 40% mark, but I think he’ll fall short. Meanwhile Santorum is on….. he’s pulled slightly ahead of Gingrich at this point. Keep in mind that he had almost no television advertising here at all, and very little time to reprise his Iowa retail campaign style. In some respects, then, this is a decent showing for a guy who is a social conservative in an election when more than half of those who showed up were independents or Democrats.
10:07 Now it is up to Gingrich. He’s on now, and he needs to keep it upbeat and positive.
10:15 Well, this is a bit too wonkish, at least at the beginning, and a bit too NH-focused (you lost that race, Newt), he’s finally picking it up a bit here at the end.
I have a couple of media deadlines here, so I’m signing off for now. I’ll be on tomorrow, but probably later in the day.
Meanwhile, it’s on to South Carolina!