It was clear so quickly that Mitt Romney was going to win the New Hampshire primary that it’s surprising he had time to load the teleprompter for the victory speech. Projected to win by double digits, Romney cruised to an easy win in a state that he likes to call his backyard. Far from a cosmopolitan subsection of America, New Hampshire is a vibrant state with an independent streak.
Romney won the small evangelical vote last night in New Hampshire (just as he did in Iowa, where it is much larger). Which leads me to think he’ll have no prob in South Carolina, which is second to only Iowa in their number of evangelicals. If he wins South Carolina handily, it’s likely that Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum will be effectively run out of the race. It’s not just voters watching the race with interest, donors are too, and they rarely reward losers with the spoils of, well, defeat.
Romney has essentially won evangelicals and overcome the Mormon gap, which means he has overcome the uneasiness voters feel about the Mormon religion. For instance, Pew Research Center found that “53 percent of Evangelicals don’t even consider it to be a religion.” So Romney had long odds indeed to convert enough voters to win an extremely close race against Santorum, a die-hard social conservative, in Iowa. But he pulled it out.
Let’s face it, New Hampshire isn’t exactly a beacon of diversity. Whites accounted for more than 92 percent of the vote last night, with Asians and Latinos accounting for 5 percent. What’s most interesting about Romney’s values-based campaigning and wooing of evangelicals is that he seems to not think any of it is applicable to Black voters, particularly Black conservatives. Yet promoting faith-based initiatives and education reform is typically an easy way to woo Black voters, even for the GOP.
George W. Bush used both on his way to winning 16 percent of the Black vote in Ohio, a crucial swing state, in his 2004 reelection.
What does Romney’s education-reform plan look like? Good question, let everyone know when you find it. There’s no mention of education under the issues area on his site, mittromney.com. Quite odd for a candidate who clearly has taken advantage of his own educational opportunities, having earned two graduate degrees from Harvard (an MBA and a law degree), and invested in those of his family, sending three of his five sons to Harvard Business School.
One could argue that Romney has no imperative to woo the black vote, not only because of the historical low rate of return but also because there aren’t that many self-identified Black Republicans in general, and both early primary states, Iowa and New Hampshire, have even fewer Black voters. But this is an example of short-term thinking. Fact is, Romney has a golden opportunity to present himself as presidential candidate focused on all of America, not just the evangelicals of the midwest or the disillusioned independents he’s hoping to snare from President Barack Obama. It’s a critical mistake Romney may soon regret.