Here in the Georgia State Senate, we've finished our first week of the legislative session. In five days, we've already had a leadership fight, which is about par for the course when considering last year. That said, only the most die hard political junkie is paying attention to the goings on in our chamber. I know that the eye of the nation, or at least the pundits and politicos are on South Carolina. While I don’t have enough information to try and hang my hat on one of the many predictions for South Carolina, I would like to talk about the three different storylines that I’ve seen emerging from the New Hampshire contest.
The first theme is that Romney is the inevitable nominee. It’s a tempting assessment to make, after all. Romney has the money, the organization, a ruthless "independent" SuperPAC, and a growing list of establishment endorsements. His historic double win in Iowa and New Hampshire have some pundits crowing his praises already, while predicting a smooth glide to the convention. This can be a double edged sword; Mitt’s momentum can mean he’s able to save money for the general election, but also leads to a lull of energetic press about his campaign as well. The media still wants the excitement of the 2008 bare-knuckle contest between then-Senator Obama and Senator Hilary. Romney vs. Not-Romney isn't that contest and Romney alone reminds too many people of John Kerry and Al Gore (presidential candidate Gore, not the post election version) - weirdly inauthentic and too privileged to get it. Not something Romney needs to deal with day after day until the conventions.
The second theme appearing is that Romney is still a weak frontrunner. No measurable enthusiasm for his candidacy has been seen yet. His argument of electability also means that Mitt is a bit bland, causing even his supporters to fall in line behind him due to practicality, not passion. This weakness means more attacks from the collective "Not Romney" candidates along the lines of what we’ve seen this week, as his opponents try to label Mitt’s years at Bain Capital as vulture capitalism. The main worry for Romney’s campaign is how powerful these attacks are going be and whether this will leave him weaker or inocculated when the real campaign against Obama begins. The impale Romney vs. inocculate Romney debate is still raging in the media sphere, but in my opinion, while Romney seems to be trying to shrug off any attacks relating to Bain Capital as "the politics of envy", that tack will only help seal his status as the rich, out of touch One-Percenter Mitt.
The third theme, which has been much rarer due to the human tendency towards hyperbolae, is that Romney’s solid victory in New Hampshire was entirely expected. He got the same percent of the vote as he was polled to get. This is neither a dominating lead that defied expectations or a crushing lack of support that showed any previous numbers were overinflated. The dirtly little news secret of the New Hampshire Primary is that it might as well have not happened as far as selecting a nominee is concerned.
Of course, the irony is that all three of these storylines about New Hampshire can and exist together. It's not the either or sort of thing that the spinners want to tell you. It's really all of the above. Romney is probably the inevitable nominee, but the dye already seems cast about a rich out of touch man who profits off the failures of others trying to actually create here in America. A win is a win, but it isn’t the type of victory that can shift this sort of narrative. In the end, Romney didn't falter, but New Hampshire hasn’t added or taken away from the problems surrounding Romney or his campaign. In the end, all we can do is look to South Carolina and see how the South reacts to this strange contest involving the candidate vs. "anybody but him".
Reprinted from State Senator Curt Thompson's (D-5th) blog.