As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Mitt Romney captured the New Hampshire primary in a snoozefest Tuesday night with 39 percent of the vote, and experts say the former Massachusetts governor is now well on his way to securing the Republican nomination for president. Romney became the first non-incumbent GOP presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire since 1976.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, came in a distant second, but continued to shock the world by again finishing with more than 20 percent of the vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was sixth, with less than 1 percent or slightly more than 1,700 total votes — about half as many as “other.” According to the New York Times, a breakdown of the other candidates reveals that Perry edged both Buddy Roemer, who had 920 votes, and openly gay candidate Fred Karger, who had 338.
Karger, a long shot who has campaigned almost exclusively in New Hampshire thus far, says he will now shift his efforts to the Feb. 28 primary in Michigan, where he’s also earned a place on the ballot. Perry, meanwhile, released a statement saying he skipped New Hampshire to focus South Carolina, site of the next primary on Saturday, Jan. 21.
“Tonight’s results in New Hampshire show the race for ‘conservative alternative’ to Mitt Romney remains wide open,” Perry said in the statement. “I skipped New Hampshire and aimed my campaign right at conservative South Carolina, where we’ve been campaigning hard and receiving an enthusiastic welcome.”
Perry’s assertion that he skipped New Hampshire is only partly true: He campaigned there and spent a lot of money on advertising before abandoning the Granite State a few weeks ago when polls showed it wasn’t having any impact.
Whether a “conservative alternative” will emerge to challenge Romney and at least lend the appearance of a two-person race for the GOP nomination remains to be seen. Leaders from the religious right will gather at a Texas ranch this weekend to decide whether they can unite behind one of the socially conservative candidates — or perhaps give up and throw their support behind Romney. The other social conservatives, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, finished tied for fourth in New Hampshire with about 9 percent of the vote. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is decidedly moderate, finished third with 17 percent behind Paul, a libertarian who captured 23 percent.
Huntsman and Paul both declined to sign an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage. With some suggesting that this primary could signal that the religious right is losing its grip on the Republican Party, the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans released a statement saying the New Hampshire results show that, “inclusion wins.”
“By adding a definitive victory in New Hampshire to his win in Iowa, Gov. Mitt Romney has established himself as a candidate who can unite Republicans and a clear threat to Barack Obama in November,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director. “Gov. Romney was consistently clear in the debates that he opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation. While he continues to support a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality — a position Log Cabin strongly opposes — he is also on record saying that such an amendment has been tried, rejected, and is unlikely to ever succeed. Romney has also taken a position that the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been settled, and he would not seek to reinstitute the ban on open service.
“Congressman Ron Paul’s second place finish underscores New Hampshire’s commitment to the libertarian principles he has consistently championed, which include his votes against the anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment and for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Cooper added. “Log Cabin Republicans are also pleased with the strong performance of Gov. Jon Huntsman, a solid supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples and a candidate who frequently talked about the need for Americans to do more for gay rights. As the nomination process moves forward, Log Cabin Republicans suggest all the candidates recognize the lesson learned from New Hampshire; that inclusion wins. The 2012 election is about liberty and prosperity, and candidates who keep the focus on the issues most important to Americans, jobs and the economy, will attain victory.”