What did we learn from New Hampshire? We learned that Ron Paul’s libertarian message continues to attract rebel voters. Paul acknowledged that sentiment last night, saying, “We are dangerous to the status quo.” Especially in a state whose bumper stickers read “Live Free or Die,” Paul’s message has appeal.
Americans are rightly concerned about the noxious spread of regulations and laws that threaten to smother our economy like the creepers overgrowing Sleeping Beauty’s castle. For decades this entanglement has grown – but the Obama White House has spurred the nettles like a farmer spreading fertilizer. Mitt Romney should pick up some of Paul’s message and make it his own.
Paul is particularly popular with young people, who are by tradition attracted to new ideas and new political messages. They are also likely to oppose military interventions; Paul has highlighted the danger to young people of our various military excursions. Further, those under thirty think of themselves as self-sufficient. (Compared to boomers, they are self-sufficient. It is a lot easier to intone against an activist and over-reaching government when you aren’t cashing Social Security checks.)
A vote for Paul is not so much a vote for a candidate as it is a vote against all that we dislike about the federal government.
Still, it is hard to imagine that anyone truly considers Paul presidential material. His offbeat message instead is a strike at conventional thinking, conventional electioneering and certainly conventional governing. A vote for Paul is not so much a vote for a candidate as it is a vote against all that we dislike about the federal government.
That’s why Republicans and independents want a new president. Exit polls show voters’ main concern was “electability,” and that most saw Mitt Romney as more likely than any other GOP candidate to take over the White House in November. Also, it was notable that Romney won across nearly every demographic. He was the frontrunner among men, women, those who described themselves as “very conservative,” “somewhat conservative” and “moderate to liberal,” evangelicals, the wealthy and the not-so well off and among the most and least educated.
The only categories who picked a different winner were young people who went for Paul (by a large margin), independents (who barely broke for Paul) and Tea Party opponents, who cast their votes heavily in favor of Huntsman. People in the lowest income category were equally divided between Romney and Paul.
The nation’s first primary also showed that Rick Perry should go home. After coming in fifth in Iowa and barely registering a heartbeat in New Hampshire, Mr. Perry is out of the game. Jon Huntsman, similarly, hasn’t got a prayer. He scored well only with Tea Party opponents. Okay, that’s not a major power base, especially in South Carolina. New Hampshire – a relatively well-educated and prosperous state – was meant to be his best arena. He apparently didn’t get that message.
The most positive development for fans of the front-runner in the New Hampshire wrap-up is that Mitt Romney finally uttered some memorable words. His victory speech was excellent and hard-hitting, faulting President Obama not only for failed policy but failed hopes. Rarely does Mr. Romney find political poetry; it’s not clear whether this is the fault of his speechwriters or his own, but it was nice to see him break out with some quotable lines about Obama last night. “The President has run out of ideas. Now, he’s running out of excuses.” Amen to that.