Mitt Romney Closing In

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Mitt Romney’s New Hampshire win was unsurprising but nevertheless significant.  Not only does he become the first Republican non-incumbent to win in both Iowa and New Hampshire, he moves one step closer to securing the Republican nomination.

First, public opinion polls in South Carolina and Florida now show Romney with a comfortable lead. The most recent numbers from South Carolina (conducted from January 5 – January 7) put Romney up by 7 points.  In Florida, polling data shows Romney with a 12 point  lead.  Polling from before Romney’s eight vote Iowa victory showed Gingrich significantly ahead in South Carolina and Gingrich and Romney in a dead heat in Florida. Mitt Romney is now well-positioned to win in both states.

Second, while much has been made about the not-Romney vote in this cycle, it has yet to coalesce around a single candidate. Rick Santorum’s second place finish in Iowa is unlikely to be replicated, Jon Huntsman failed to gain any ground via New Hampshire (despite is excitement at his third place finish), and Rick Perry should be looking for an emergency exit.

This leaves Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Gingrich can only do more damage than good; and, in the process, damage Republican chances for winning the White House in 2012.  Romney and his unaffiliated Super Pac should still have the resources to withstand and counter the attacks. The question (I think) is how badly will he be wounded?

The reality is that the not-Romney candidate is Ron Paul, a fact that unquestionably plays in Romney’s favor.

In politics, the 11 days between New Hampshire and South Carolina is a lifetime. But if nothing happens to shake up the playing field, Romney could all but secure the nomination with wins in South Carolina and Florida.