MANCHESTER, NH--The Obama team, no surprise, knocked down GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney's Tuesday primary win here because his vote was not big enough. They need to be careful because Romney is running a very smart campaign--studying, as football coaches do, Obama's playbook.
"He fell far short of meeting expectations," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.), taunting Romney's 38 percent victory, besting Ron Paul at 24 percent, Jon Huntsman at 17 percent. The two who last week seemed the biggest threat to Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, each pulled only 10 percent.
Romney's election night event was at Southern New Hampshire University, the same place were four years ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted her victory party after a surprise come-from-behind win, stunning the overly-confident Obama team.
Recalling that event, Romney advisor Stuart Stevens tossed it back: "The Obama campaign should maybe win one in New Hampshire before criticizing others for not winning big enough," he told me. (Obama won New Hampshire in the general election.)
The Romney campaign, based in Boston, scrutinized the epic Obama/Clinton contest in New Hampshire. "We studied it very carefully," said Stevens to see what the Obama did right here--and where they stumbled. In Boston, they read all the speeches and watched all the event videos.
Romney heads into South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary and Florida's Jan. 31 primary votes strong because the New Hampshire and Iowa victories also did not yield any coalition to create a strong, anti-Romney alternative candidate.
The New Hampshire Republican primary took on a nasty tone in the closing days, with Romney's rivals-- Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman--hitting his claim that while running Bain Capital, the private-equity firm, he was responsible for creating tens of thousands of jobs. While that trio worked the right, the Obama Team, figuring all along Romney would be the GOP nominee, stepped up their Bain hit on Romney from the left.
From the Romney campaign perspective, the Bain attacks--coming now--makes it old news in November.
Anyway, the election results show how far it got Romney's rivals.
For now, that is.
With jobs a central 2012 election issue--and one of Obama's greatest vulnerabilities he has to deal with--the New Hampshire primary may be seen in a few weeks as a mere dress rehearsal for Bain hits on Romney to come.
Stevens said the conflict over Romney and Bain in a way played to their advantage. Voters, he said "like sparks." With Romney well ahead in every poll in New Hampshire for months, the Bain hits--not exactly unanticipated--gave a chance to show Romney was working. "Voters can sense if you are kind of coasting, not fighting," Stevens said.
The totals were not all in as I write this, but the 2012 voters turnout here was tens of thousands fewer than in 2008--evidence of an "enthusiasm gap" on the GOP side which Obama will be able to exploit to his advantage in November.
Romney's Finance Director, Mason Fink, invited the campaigns best fund-raisers and donors from around the country--the National Finance Committee-- to the New Hampshire victory party, part of a series of events for Romney's best donors and "bundlers," people who use their own networks to raise campaign money.
The group included Illinois Romney Campaign finance co-chairs attorney Ty Fahner and business executives Susan Crown (her father Lester is an Obama backer) and Bill Kunkler.