With 100% of precincts reporting, the results are:
What I find most interesting is that Romney got more votes than those who finished 3rd and 4th, combined. Not even in New Hampshire did Romney achieve this, though he was close (he had 39.3% of the vote to Paul’s 22.9% and Huntsman’s 16.9%).
It’s hard to say what will happen to Santorum. Candidates are known for being optimistic until the day they drop out, like when Huntsman delivered his “ticket to ride” speech after getting third in New Hampshire, before dropping out days later. One can’t even look at where a candidate has campaigned heavily, as Perry put his heart and soul into South Carolina, but dropped before the vote due to abysmal poll numbers.
Paul has been focusing on Maine, where the state’s caucus has started early. While it was “recommended” that the caucuses run from Feb. 4th through the 11th, a handful of counties have already begun. Seeing no hope in Florida, which assigns delegates on a winner-take-all basis, Paul has shrewdly focused on states like Maine, Nevada and Minnesota. Since Gingrich and Santorum are walking away from Florida with nothing to show for their effort, Paul is actually poised to come away with more delegates earned this week than both of them, combined.
I’m of the opinion that Paul’s campaign is not aiming to win the nomination, but to pave the way for libertarianism within the Republican Party. While he has been making all the smart moves for someone in his situation, pragmatically choosing the best methods available to him to gain delegates, I have a feeling it’s more about ideology than Paul himself. I’m still confident it will be Paul and Romney at the end, and it will be interesting to see whether there will be any Romney/Paul debates before the convention (Romney may very well decline to attend such a debate, because he would have nothing to gain by showing up).
With the results from Florida now official, Romney is once again the undisputed frontrunner with all the momentum. This was the sense going into the primary today, based on debate performances and polling, but Romney must be breathing a deep sigh of release after his loss in South Carolina, where he had been polling ahead of Gingrich by double digits just a week before the primary.
However, there are already murmurs among political analysts about whether Romney can win support, or if he’s only capable of tearing down his opponents. His strategy of outspending the opposition with attack ads is working now, but it probably won’t cut it in the general election, where Obama has the advantage, both monetarily and substantively.
Obama has been in full campaign mode since the State of the Union, which essentially served as his preliminary case for re-election. Expect him to focus on aspects of his presidency where he has excelled, namely his foreign policy decisions. The wedge issues this year are still up in the air, but I wouldn’t be surprised if classics like taxes, gay marriage, regulations, and illegal immigration pop up, joined by timely problems like income inequality and unemployment.
Whatever does come up in the general election, we’ll hear more about it than any prior contest. The sheer volume of advertising is expected to surpass all previous years, so when you’re trying to enjoy the Olympics this summer but you can’t, because every 10 minutes you are reminded of why you hate politics, remember (and thank) Citizens United.