Mitt Romney is not just the first non-incumbent Republican to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, but he did it after failing to capture both states with heavy investments four years ago.
He smartly used the spotlight victory affords to give a well-crafted speech that emphasized his core themes — majoring in Barack Obama’s record on the economy, with a minor in America’s role in the world. He flicked briefly, but purposefully, at efforts by his Republican rivals to make an issue of his tenure at Bain Capital and at an expression of his concern for average Americans. If, as appears quite likely, Romney is the Republican nominee, expect his acceptance speech at the party convention in Tampa to be like the one he gave Tuesday.
After Iowa, it was hard to come up with scenarios that didn’t end with Romney as his party’s standard bearer. After New Hampshire, it is even harder to see an outcome where he isn’t the de facto nominee by the end of January. Ironically, the attack by Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry on Bain make it more likely that prominent Republican donors and elected officials will quickly rally around Romney to clear the field and give him a chance to turn his full focus to beating Barack Obama.