Lost in the inevitable media hype about Romney winning New Hampshire and Iowa is the fact that he actually performed rather poorly in light of his supposed inevitability. Here are the winning percentages of the last three meaningful New Hampshire primaries:
1996: 27% (Buchanan)
2000: 49% (McCain)
2008: 37% (McCain)
2012: 39% (Romney)
The fascinating thing is that Romney only got 7% more votes in 2012 than he did four years ago, assuming that the present numbers hold up, despite campaigning there ever since the last primary. And he performed about as expected; the two final polls had him at 37%. This is pretty bad for a candidate who is supposed to have the nomination sewn up already, in fact, it indicates that most Republicans simply don’t want to vote for him. The Huntsman vote is probably the largest collection of pure anti-Romney votes, as there is no reason to see them as anything but a protest given the ideological similarities between the two Mormons.
Ron Paul, on the other hand, outperformed. He was supposed to win around 17% of the vote versus 15% for Huntsman. Gallup had him as low as 12%. Instead, he got 23%, which in consideration of Santorum’s very poor performance, puts him in a strong position as the alternative to Romney. So, Perry is done, Huntsman isn’t a player but can pretend to be for a little while, and both Gingrich and Santorum should be done but won’t quit before South Carolina.
We can be confident that Paul did much better than expected in New Hampshire because National Review’s Corner has assiduously, and bizarrely, avoided discussing him in 20 posts about the primary, despite devoting several apiece to Huntsman, Gingrich, and Santorum.