After NH, Romney comfortably in lead, GVSU expert says

Two early political contests and two first place wins have made former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney an early favorite for the Republican nomination for this fall’s presidential election.

Grand Valley State University political science professor Erika King said a second win in New Hampshire following a narrow win in Iowa puts Romney in the lead.

“It doesn’t automatically guarantee that he’s going to be the Republican nominee, but at this point there doesn’t seem to be a single strong challenger to him winning the nomination,” King said.

That lack of a challenger could be significant as the race for the nomination continues. King said two different second place winners in the first two contests, combined with the fact that it’s not likely one will emerge from either primary in South Carolina or Florida, will benefit Romney’s campaign.

“The more his opponents within the Republican party remain divided and stay in the race, the better it is for him,” King said.

Former Utah governor John Huntsman had a disappointing finish in New Hampshire, despite putting more resources and time into the campaign there than most. King said his finish doesn’t mean the death of his campaign, but it is a big problem.

King also suggested that it’s not likely to see candidates drop out before the South Carolina primary, but anyone who fares poorly there or in Florida will likely be the next to call it quits on the campaign trail.

“I don’t think we’ll see any more winnowing of the candidates before South Carolina,” King said. “I don’t think candidates who are in the race right now want to give up just yet.”

King did say that as Romney’s candidacy bid becomes stronger, he’s moving more toward language in his speeches that caters to not only Republicans, but independents and some Democrats as well. She said it’s part of testing out messages that could be used during the general election cycle if he were to get the GOP nomination.