Just as the entry of Tom Vilsack into the presidential race may make it possible for Democrats to skip Iowa, a serious Romney bid may allow both McCain and Giuliani to announce they are bypassing New Hampshire because they can’t compete with the near-favorite son that Massachusetts boy Romney is. This probably won’t happen, since McCain did so well in New Hampshire in 2000, but it does indicate Romney will have yet another hurdle to jump. He may do well in New Hampshire, but that will be easily written off as a geographic fluke. ~John Podhoretz
I have spent some time (probably far too much time) thinking about Romney’s primary prospects, and this one just doesn’t compute. New Hampshire continues to be the only New England state with greater GOP registration over the Dems, but it is also famously contrarian and independent-minded and it also went for the Democrats in a big and somewhat surprising way in 2006, which may change the complexion of the primary in ’07-’08.
This is not a state where social conservative pols do terribly well in any election (unless they also happen to run, as Buchanan did in ’96, on economic populist themes), and Romney is so far basing much of his candidacy around his religious and social conservative appeal; his other major issue that he runs on at this point is his universal health-care boondoggle in Mass. that will presumably make many in the home of Live Free or Die feel rather queasy. I am also extremely skeptical that they think of a carpetbagging Utahan who was elected in dreaded Massachusetts as their “near-favorite son.”
It is true that Dukakis won the 1988 Democratic primary, so there is no clear evidence that New Hampshire voters will necessarily reject someone from Massachusetts, but it is hard to see why they would be disposed to embrace him because he comes from next door. I predict that New Hampshire is not going to be a terribly good race for any of the Terrible Trio. (One entertaining possible outcome: McCain, Giuliani and Romney all give speeches where they announce that they are in a three-way tie for third place behind Duncan Hunter and Tommy Thompson.)
Their likely poor showings in N.H. may actually be good news for them. As 2000 reminded us, the eventual Republican nominee is slightly less likely to win N.H. in open years. On the Republican side since 1948, there have been seven elections that might reasonably be called open (i.e., there was not an incumbent President running) and in four of them the N.H. winner did not become the nominee. The three who did go on to win the nomination and election are Reagan in ’80, Nixon’s ’68 run and Bush the Elder in ’88. (On the Democratic side in open years, the N.H. winner has an even harder time winning the whole shebang, with only two of seven primary victors becoming the nominee–Carter and Dukakis.)