After GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary, we asked journalism professor Alan Schroeder in the College of Arts, Media and Design, who has authored a book on presidential debates, to predict the short-term future of the race for the White House.
Retail campaigning, whereby candidates make contact with voters, has characterized the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, but what factors will most influence voters going forward?
I think advertising become a huge part of the formula as the campaign moves into South Carolina and other states. We’ve already seen that both the Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich super PACs are dumping millions into South Carolina to buy ads. In Gingrich’s, case, they’re largely anti-Romney ads about Bain Capital, the Boston– based alternative asset management and financial services firm cofounded by Romney; in Romney’s case, they’re more defensive.
The campaign will move from town halls, living rooms and diners to an electronic realm. Spending millions of dollars in a state like South Carolina means that the campaigns are going to carpet-bomb the airwaves. Once you move past Iowa and New Hampshire, the train starts moving pretty quickly down the tracks and you just don’t have time for retail politics.
How will charges that Romney profited while slashing jobs as chief executive of Bain Capital affect the race?
It’s pretty clear that the Romney campaign is starting to panic about the Bain Capital charges. It was certainly expecting the Obama campaign to make that a centerpiece of its strategy, but not that other Republicans would join in on the attack. You’re now seeing a circling of the wagons, with top politicians and media members coming to Romney’s side. In his victory speech Tuesday, he directly assailed the Republicans making those charges, so clearly these arguments about being a vulture and a job-killer have struck a nerve with the Romney campaign.
It looks like that topic is going to move into South Carolina. Gingrich will be putting a 30-minute film on the airwaves that is very critical of Romney and Bain, which will include interviews with people from the state who had lost their jobs. I think this is going to continue to be a real thorn in Romney’s side going forward.
Jon Huntsman bet it all in New Hampshire, but finished in a rather disappointing third place, behind both Romney and Ron Paul, who garnered nearly 23 percent of the vote. Where do the second and third place candidates go from here?
In his speech Tuesday night, Huntsman referred to the results as his “ticket to ride,” but I don’t see how that’s going to get him to South Carolina, let alone the states beyond that. When you’ve spent all your time in one state and then only get about 17 percent of the vote, that’s not a good showing. He really needed to do what Rick Santorum did in Iowa: come from behind, have a really big showing and then convince people he has the momentum to go forward. I don’t think Huntsman did that.
And it seems clear now that Ron Paul isn’t going to be the Republican nominee. But the fact that he’s getting about a quarter of the vote in each state — and big support from younger voters — is showing that he’s still relevant. After it’s clear to everyone that Romney is going to be the nominee, the Republicans are going to have to figure out a way to tap into his very organized and very vocal base.