1. There Will Be Blood
Newt hasn’t done well at all; he took fourth place in both contests. That said, he and his allies have invested a ton of money preparing an ambush for Mitt in South Carolina, including a heavily touted long-form attack ad/documentary that will premiere on South Carolina televisions. Gingrich wants to see if he can break that famous Romney jaw.
Perry has performed the worst of all the candidates who made it to the voting stage, finishing last in Iowa and not even moving the needle in New Hampshire. In one view, he’s following something like Newt Gingrich’s game plan: He’s a well financed Southerner who’s willing to shiv the frontrunner in South Carolina’s famously nasty primary.
That said, Perry has never lost an election before in his life, and he’s lived in George W. Bush’s shadow for the better part of his career. W ran from the Texas Governor’s seat and won. (Sure, sure: Florida. The dude still got the launch codes.) Perry did the same and got nuked. The comparison must weigh on Perry’s mind as he mulls hanging up his spurs.
3. The Stalking Horse Plan
Santorum invested everything in Iowa and came achingly close to winning, ending up just 8 votes behind Mitt. However, he came to New Hampshire with no organization, and he got clobbered, winding up in fifth place. Santorum has to be thinking: If Romney gets bloodied in South Carolina, that state’s social conservatives might reward his purist approach to conservative politics and (relatively) unsullied personal history. If Romney stumbles, Santorum could shock the world…
4. Slow and Steady
Ron Paul is sitting pretty: He finished second and third, respectively, in New Hampshire and Iowa. He has built a nationwide organization aimed at poaching delegates. He has a unique appeal to a small but fanatical base that will keep him (thinly) financed for the long haul. If Romney wants Paul to sit down and shut up, he might have to give him something…
5. The 10,000 Mile Stare
Obama’s man in China invested everything in New Hampshire, and he came in third. While Huntsman may put a happy face on that, it’s a huge disappointment. His sticking around is the hardest to figure. Is he setting the stage for a 2016 campaign? Trying to launch his daughters’ media careers? Huntsman must be staying in for the long term, because he’s smart enough to know he won’t be anywhere near the ticket this year.