Just under two years out, Mitt Romney is the prohibitive favorite in the Granite State’s GOP primary:
One of the biggest blows to Mitt Romney’s hopes for being the 2008 Republican Presidential nominee was his losing the neighboring state of New Hampshire. Right now it doesn’t look like that would be a problem for him in a 2012 run. Romney is by far and away the favorite of voters in the state at this very early point, with the support of 39% of Republicans in the state. Sarah Palin comes in second at 13%, with Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich tied for third at 11%. Ron Paul is fifth at 7%, and if anyone out of the unlikely trio of Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, and Rick Santorum was somehow able to win the state they’d be able to say in their victory speech that they started at nothing- Pawlenty registers at 3% with Barbour and Santorum at just 1%.
Yes, this is good news for Romney, but it’s not entirely unexpected. He’s a hometown boy in New Hampshire to some extent, and the only reason he didn’t do better there in 2008 is because he couldn’t overcome the deep well of support and momentum that John McCain had in the state. In 2012, he’ll have nobody who can credibly repeat what McCain did.
Which is why this is also bad news for Romney.
If these numbers continue, then Romney’s biggest problem in January 2012 will be the possibility of a performance that is weaker than expected. He could win the state in the sense that he’d come in first, but still lose because he didn’t win by as big a margin as expected, and that would be a problem going in to the Super Tuesday primaries.
Romney’s clearest past to the nomination in 2012 is to create the impression that he’s the inevitable nominee, and to do that he’s going to need early victories. New Hampshire definitely, and probably Iowa as well. He’ll have the money to do it, but it’s unclear whether he’ll have the votes.