Yesterday was a historic day for the Republican Party.
Let’s start with the main headline. Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary and became the first Republican non-incumbent candidate in history to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. And unlike his narrow victory in Iowa; this time Romney won big. He won among conservatives, evangelicals and moderates. He won among those who placed fixing the economy as a priority and those who said electability was paramount. He is well positioned to move into South Carolina and sew up the nomination with a victory.
South Carolina will be a tough slog. Unlike Iowa and New Hampshire where the economy is decent and unemployment is low, South Carolina voters live in a struggling economy with unemployment higher than the national average. Romney will have to make the case that that he understands their plight and has the plan to fix their economic problems and create jobs.
Ron Paul came in second and Jon Huntsman a disappointing third. (For those keeping track; we thought Huntsman would do better and we just finished eating our breakfast of crow.) All of the candidates have pledged to remain in the race and challenge Romney in South Carolina. As long as the Romney’s opposition is spread out among a host of also- ran’s his normal polling of 25% will probably be good enough to win the state.
The other historic event yesterday was when the former Republican Speaker of the House and the sitting Republican governor of the second largest state in the union went to extraordinary measures to criticize Romney by attacking some of the basic tenants of capitalism. Both Speaker Newt Gingrich and Governor Rick Perry loudly criticized Romney’s work as CEO of Bain capital. They painted him as a predator that took over companies, picked them clean for huge profits and walked away with millions as the companies filed for bankruptcy and the workers lost their jobs. Perry referred to the process as “Vulture Capitalism”. Gingrich cited an example wherein: “Romney and Bain invested $30 million into a company but instead of taking out $60 million, which would have been a nice return; they took out $180 million and then stood by as the company went bankrupt and people lost their jobs.” Newt Gingrich suddenly has a conscience about making money? Who knew?Gingrich has already started to run $5 million in TV/radio radio ads in South Carolina attacking Romney’s tactics while running Bain Capital.
This attack on Romney is of historic proportions because here we have two conservative leaders running for president attacking another for implementing the basic tenants of capitalism. Investors take risks and are entitled to be compensated for that risk. You can argue that Romney’s tactics were excessive and perhaps even ruthless. But that is a moral question. As long as Bain was operating within the scope of the law they have the right to make as much money for their clients as they can. Survival of the fittest! At least that is what conservatives would typically argue in defending the free enterprise system. Gingrich and Perry sound more like members of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Fueled by their tangible hatred for Romney, the other candidates have successfully formed a circular firing squad.
Back in Washington President Obama and his chief campaign advisors: David Plouffe and David Axelrod will be watching as Newt’s $5 million dollar campaign research program plays out on TV. No doubt they’ll be pressing the “Record” button on the remote.