It's no surprise Massachusetts resident and 2008 primary candidate Mitt Romney had an advantage on the ground in New Hampshire: 38% of today's Republican primary voters say they were personally contacted by his campaign at some point. But who had the second-best ground game in New Hampshire? It's a toss-up between fellow 2008 candidate Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, who essentially camped out in the state in the months leading up to today's vote.
The two relative latecomers to the race - Newt Gingrich (who didn't set up his New Hampshire campaign office until after Thanksgiving) and Rick Santorum (who didn't decide to make a real play for the state until last week) - both reached 10% of today's voters. Unsurprisingly, Rick Perry - who decided to skip serious campaigning in the state - reached just 1% of those who headed to the polls today.
Did Newt Gingrich's complaints about unfair attacks from Mitt Romney's camp resonate with New Hampshire's voters? There's evidence they might have: 26% of New Hampshire's Republican primary voters in early exit polls said the former Massachusetts governor was the candidate responsible for the most unfair campaign - enough to earn him a spot at the top of the dishonor roll on that question.
But there's a chance that going negative over those negative ads may have backfired on Gingrich himself: he ran a close second on that question, at 22%. Ron Paul was third on the list, at 17%.
There are two things everyone thinks they know about the 2012 campaign. The first is that the top three priorities for voters of any political persuasion this year are jobs, jobs and jobs. The second: that Republicans are still dissatisfied with their 2012 options.
In New Hampshire - where unemployment barely cracks 5%, far below the national average – 6 in 10 GOP primary voters in CNN exit polls say cutting the deficit is a bigger priority than job creation. And two-thirds say they’re happy with the Republican primary field.
Just as in Iowa, nearly half the voters in New Hampshire’s Republican primary (46%) didn’t make up their minds until the final few days of the contest, and roughly 1 in 5 didn’t decide on a candidate until Election Day, according to early CNN exit polls.
What helped those late deciders make their presidential picks? One big factor, as it’s been all year, may have been the presidential debates – two of them held in New Hampshire within the race’s final three days. More than 4 in 5 of New Hampshire’s GOP primary voters say those faceoffs were important to their vote today.
Ladies and gentlemen: We’re not in Iowa anymore.
Last week, 83% of caucus voters described themselves as conservative; 47% said they were “very conservative.” Today, just over half the New Hampshire Republican primary voters in early CNN exit polls (54%) call themselves conservative, and just 21% fall in the “very conservative” category – raising the question of whether the “Massachusetts moderate” attack Newt Gingrich debuted in Iowa might do quite the same damage to Mitt Romney in a contest where roughly three times as many voters describe themselves as moderate or liberal.
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