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All eyes are on New Hampshire now as the Republican presidential candidates prepare for the state’s January 7th primary. The state of the race has shaken up following the results in Iowa, with Rick Santorum emerging as the alternative to Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann dropping out of the race.
“Last night, the people of Iowa spoke with a very clear voice, and so I have decided to stand aside,” Bachmann said when she suspended her campaign Wednesday morning.
Though she won the Ames Straw Poll in August, she fell in the polls as Rick Perry entered the race and other contenders took their turns as the leading alternative to Romney. She came in sixth place in Iowa on Tuesday, beating only Jon Huntsman who has made New Hampshire his entire focus.
Rick Perry was expected to drop out as well when he reacted to the results in Iowa by announcing that he was headed back to Texas to “determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race.” His staff was surprised when he declared via Twitter on Wednesday that he was staying in and focusing on South Carolina’s primary on January 21. He then referred to Iowa as a “quirky place.”
The big question now is who Bachmann’s supporters will get behind. Her withdrawal from the race won’t affect the New Hampshire primary much, as the last poll had her with only 2% there. That is not true of South Carolina. The last InsiderAdvantage poll had her with 8% in South Carolina, putting her in third place there. The state is critical to Santorum, Gingrich and Perry, so the distribution of her support is an important factor.
The latest New Hampshire poll, taken from January 2-3, has Romney with a huge lead at 43%. Ron Paul is in second with 14%. There is a tight struggle for third place between Gingrich with 9%, Huntsman with 7% and Santorum with 6%. Rick Perry is at only 2%. Of these candidates, the primary is most important to Romney and Huntsman, the latter of which has based his entire campaign on New Hampshire. This poll was taken before the Iowa results came in, which will give a strong boost to Santorum. It is unclear if Romney has hit his ceiling in New Hampshire but if he hasn’t, his slight victory in Iowa and Wednesday’s endorsement from Senator John McCain could move his numbers even higher.
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