That includes Romney.
Romney won by 16 points over Ron Paul. Huntsman finished third and thinks he can actually win it all. Newtie and Santorum got 9% tying for fourth. And Rick Perry was with them in spirit, finishing with dismal numbers in dead last (with 51% of precincts counted, Perry still didn't have 1,000 votes. Ouch).
The battle moves now to South Carolina. Their primary is January 21. Since 1980, the eventual R nominee has won SC. How's it going to go?
Romney, in many ways, is like another Obama. His main support is in academic and city areas, where people purport to be progressive thinkers. The overall map of the political allegiances doesn't really change all that much. Red states pretty much stay red states, blue states pretty much stay blue. In a way, national campaigns pit two very different versions of America against each other instead of trying to unite them. But then again, everybody needs someone to hate. It's why so many debates boil down to two choices. Republican or Democrat. Catholic or Protestant. Liberal or Conservative. With us or against us.
Romney getting the nomination will be interesting because the rural centers won't be as anxious for him. Oh, they'll support him. I mean, who else are they going to vote for? But that leaves Obama's supporters making noise in the only environment that will cut Romney slack. What happens next?
The idea that the candidates are specifically targeting Obama's core comfort zones in intellectual circles is borne out by Huntsman and Santorum. The two of them are anxiously throwing a little class warfare into the mix. Pitting the classes against each other never goes out of style. Santorum, a guy who made $1.3 mil last year, described himself as a "Costco guy". And Huntsman's little dismissive swipe of Iowa last week is still out there.
The middle class has continued to shrink and jobs are still hard to find. Now, to be fair, I don't believe Obama is intentionally destroying the middle class. I think he had all these economic plans that he either believed or was told would be great ideas, and the reality is not squaring up (and he can't admit he screwed up because it will become an election issue). The class warfare angle that he has been working lately (increasing the millionaire tax to make them "pay their fair share") is actually not his invention. When Obamacare was still being debated, a number of web sites, commentators, and so on, attacked opponents of the bill as not caring about poor people. The ranks of the poor have only grown -- it was revealed today that 2011 tax returns were an average of $100 less than the year before. This is the concern of the voters. And politicians win elections by telling the voters what they want to hear.
The class warfare angle is factoring heavily into negative ads targeting Romney in SC. They are concentrated there because, if Romney can finish second or lower, it creates an alternative candidate who can barter votes or influence and maaaaaaybe a vice presidency pick. Leading this charge is Newtie. His superPAC, Winning Our Future, is ready to shell out $3 mil between now and the 21st to get its little Bain Capital documentary into the public consciousness, including a 30 minute presentation. Newtie is only strong in the South, and even that is debatable -- remember, he only got 10,000 sigs in Virginia, his adopted state. If Romney survives the negative ad assault and takes first in SC, it's fuckin' over.
(Note: there's a stronger chance of this happening than you realize. Remember, there isn't just one son of the South in this race, there are two: Newtie and Perry. Perry doesn't have enough money to really build things up and is going with the common folk approach, campaigning hard among the "just plain folks" while Newtie focuses on city centers where his ad dollars will work. It is entirely likely they will split the vote that, had only one of them gotten it, may put them above Romney. There's a reason they are working so hard -- they both know they need the other guy's votes in order to win. And don't count out Ron Paul being a spoiler and siphoning some of those votes away, too. He's finishing too strong with independent voters and building a surprising following with ultra-conservatives, the very people Newtie and Perry are counting on.)
Santorum finally sees to be shutting his yap, thank God. I'm predicting SC will be his last stand. He sees his "surge" from the Iowa caucus was a fluke, and when the rubber meets the road, it rolls over him. If he doesn't take third or higher, I think he'll quit the next day.
Get ready for more mush to gush forth....