Mitt gets his win, Hugh gets his night, and we begin to see what mainline conservative opposition to McCain can look like in later primaries.
In two states in a row, John McCain underperformed 2000 — when he was eventually drubbed by 20 points nationally. Mitt Romney may have run as the “Governor of Michigan” but McCain was dubbed the “Governor of New Hampshire.” Romney won his state by 9, McCain won his by 5. Also, in both New Hampshire and Michigan, McCain has not closed well. He finished no better than the final polls in New Hampshire, and lost by 9 in Michigan when the final RCP average showed 2.7.
Also, as in New Hampshire, McCain did not attain blowout margins among independents and Democrats and their share of the vote plummeted. McCain is no longer the insurgent, but the putative frontrunner and mischief makers from the other side have little incentive to cross over to support him. This cushion that kept him alive in 2000 is no longer there for him in 2008. Though there are some indications he’s making up for it in Republican support, that trend was more apparent in New Hampshire than Michigan.
Did Romney family nostalgia play a role? Not among those voters old enough to remember George Romney. McCain won voters over 65 by 39-38%.