Mitt Romney has to match his lofty expectations by winning the Republican New Hampshire primary with a huge majority if his position as most-likely nominee is to be maintained, conservative columnist John Fund tells Newsmax.TV.
And that might not be easy, as rival Rick Santorum surges following his wafer-thin loss to Romney by just eight votes in the Iowa caucuses.
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“Mitt Romney has to prove himself in his own back yard,” Fund said in the exclusive Newsmax interview. “The expectation now is that Romney is going to win easily in New Hampshire, but if this new rising star Rick Santorum can bring him back down to earth, Romney’s electability, which is one of his major strengths in the race, could be called into question.
“About half the people who voted for Romney in Iowa voted for him because they thought he is the most electable Republican. He did well in winning but he got a lower percentage of the vote in Iowa than he did in 2008, when he placed second.
“I question whether or not Mitt Romney can be brought down to earth or to the level of the other candidates so quickly with only six days to go.
“If that were to happen it would be damaging to Mitt Romney, so Romney not only has to win New Hampshire, he has to win New Hampshire by the margins of the expectations have been attached to him there.”
Santorum is up to 8 percent in Suffolk University’s most recent poll in New Hampshire. Although he is still way behind Romney, he has overtaken both Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman to place in third in the state. Ron Paul is second.
And that is a remarkable feat for the former Pennsylvania senator, said Fund, a contributing editor to the American Spectator.
“This is a man who was wandering through Iowa’s 99 counties — he visited every single one. He had been given up as lost; he was at the back of the bus in terms of polling, but he came back.
“He will be an eternal monument to the success of persistence in American politics.”
Fund said history would say that Santorum does not have the time or resources to mount a truly effective campaign against the Romney machine, but history is not always a good guide.
“Nothing about Rick Santorum’s rise to date has been expected or predictable,” he pointed out.
Of the other remaining candidates, Fund said both Huntsman and Rick Perry have to do something special in New Hampshire if they are to survive much longer. “Most people don’t see Rick Perry as being a long-term player in this nomination contest,” he said.
“Jon Huntsman has laid all of his chips on New Hampshire, hoping that he can somehow be an alternative to Mitt Romney. If he doesn’t do well, Fund said, “He is going to see the future as being dark for himself and will probably pull out.”
As for Paul, Fund believes the veteran Texan never went into the contest with the expectation of winning.
“He set out to change the Republican Party to try to return it to what he sees as its original constitutional roots, its original non-interventionist roots.
“Ron Paul doesn’t have to win the presidential nomination to change the party; he has already made a big impact.”
Now, Fund said, it is up to the GOP to hold on to the energized mass of young, idealistic voters that Paul has attracted.
“He clearly has tapped into a market, a group of voters who normally do not vote Republican and the Republican Party, even though it is not going to nominate Ron Paul, should pay heed to his voters and figure out a way to bring them into the fold rather than try to repel them.”
And he said he expects Newt Gingrich to soldier on. “It’ll be tough. He’s running low on money. He’s running low on organizational tools, but Newt is not a quitter. He’s a fighter and he’s going to go on and if he can battle back and come in second or third in New Hampshire he can live to fight in South Carolina which is a state that’s very good territory for Newt.”
Fund said President Barack Obama’s team would prefer to face a Republican who could be “easily caricatured or has a background that could be lampooned,” such as Paul or Gingrich, but he clearly believes that Romney will be Obama’s eventual rival.
He pointed out that Democrats even trotted out some Iowans who had been laid off from companies taken over by the former Massachusetts governor’s merger group Bain Capital to try to paint him as “cold and heartless.”
“The Obama people may not want Mitt Romney as their first choice but they are perfectly prepared to run against him and they are already laying the foundations for laying a very, very tough attack on him for being rich, out of touch and a job destroyer not a job creator.”
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