Ron Paul

Last night was, by all accounts, a good night for Mitt Romney. He went into the New Hampshire primary needing two things: to win by a significant margin and to leave no one else with a plausible path to victory. The results from the Granite State fulfilled both of these Romney criteria, and it’s now extremely likely Mitt Romney will win the Republican presidential nomination this year.

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MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Barack Obama needs to get himself to New Hampshire, pronto. There are some awfully discombobulated voters up here, and if he has any hope of holding onto the state next fall, he’s going to need to have a serious talk with them. That’s my main takeaway from Mitt Romney’s successful wearing down of a skeptical electorate to the point where, after six years of having him showing up at their tiniest parades and showering cash on their lowliest of elected officials, it finally said: Uncle.

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Since everybody knows Romney's going to win today's New Hampshire primary--with 11 percent of precincts reporting, he's currently at 35.6 percent--the media-politico complex is in a swivet trying to figure out how large his win must be to beat expectations. If he doesn't break 40 percent, some say, he "lost." The problem in this instance is that if Romney "loses" by winning the primary by an insufficient lead the pundits will have a hard time figuring out whom to declare the "winner." If Ron Paul comes in second (he's currently placing second at 24.6 percent" does he "win"? Give me a break.

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Rochester, N.H.—Having emerged unbloodied Sunday morning from the weekend’s debate double-header, Mitt Romney barreled down Route 101 at more than 80 miles an hour towards a noon rally at the Rochester Opera House. (I can verify the speedometer reading since the Romney campaign bus zoomed past me in a 65-mile-an-hour zone and I tailed it until it turned off the highway). The front-runner’s haste was understandable, since Romney wants this primary inscribed in the record books before his double-digit lead vanishes.

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I've spent the last few days arguing that there’s only one plausible way to make Mitt Romney sweat this nomination contest: Rick Santorum has to beat expectations in New Hampshire so that he comes into South Carolina with a head of steam and consolidates the anti-Romney vote there. To do that, Santorum doesn't need to win New Hampshire, where Romney is all but assured of victory. But he does need to finish well ahead of Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich, who constitute the rest of the contending pack.

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The Middle Thingy

At last night's GOP debate, the word "class" was uttered three times before Rick Santorum declared the word out of bounds. Jon Huntsman made reference to "the creative class in this country." Romney said "the Obama economy" was hurting "the middle class." Ron Paul said the middle class "is shrinking." Finally Santorum could bear it no longer: The governor used a term earlier that--that I shrink from. And--it's one that I don't think we should be using as Republicans: "middle class." There are no classes in America. We are a country that don't allow for titles. We don't put people in classes.

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For anyone moderately familiar with Ron Paul’s record, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a litany of racists, anti-Semites, conspiracy-theorists, and militia members back his presidential campaign. Paul, after all, has spent decades cultivating the support of the far-right, not least by publishing for years a newsletter steeped in bigotry. (Read my 2008 article “Angry White Man,” for ample evidence.) Much more disconcerting is the fact that so many prominent liberals have been eagerly lining up behind Paul’s candidacy.

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Winning The Hour

When editing or mentoring overeager young journalists, my friend and former Slate colleague Jack Shafer, now media columnist for Reuters, loves to repeat something Warren Beatty once said to the bombastic screenwriter John Milius. (The source is an interview with the depressive screenwriter Paul Schrader in Film Comment; Shafer has been using Beatty's line since that issue hit the newsstands in March 1976.) Beatty, Milius, and Schrader were having a script meeting and Beatty was trying to convey to Milius what was wrong with his full-tilt, relentlessly unmodulated approach.

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It’s tempting to believe that anything that boosts Mitt Romney’s rivals is bad news for Romney himself. In fact, that’s not the case, and today’s Boston Globe endorsement of Jon Hunstman illustrates why.  According to the latest Suffolk University tracking poll, Romney has a 23-point lead in New Hampshire over Ron Paul, his closest competitor. Barring a near-miraculous turn of events, Romney will win next Tuesday’s primary contest. The real question, as I noted yesterday, is whether any of the non-Paul contenders can use New Hampshire to establish himself as a credible alternative.

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Cameron Abadi: I’d say Ron Paul. If Santorum ended up in the White House, I fear we’d end up with an established church. But I’m pretty sure we’d still have an established currency. David Bell: Urrgh. What a horrible choice. But in the end, I guess I’d have to give the prize to Ron Paul by a hair, because his temperament is more genuinely fanatical than Santorum’s. And his views on foreign policy and the Federal Reserve suggest a significantly greater inability to perceive reality.

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