Mitt Romney’s impressive popular vote victory in New Hampshire last night was underscored by the exit poll data. He swept the board among most key demographic groups. Although most of the results fit expectations, there were surprises as well. Let’s look at those first:
• Mitt Romney, thought to be the moderate or moderate conservative in the race, won the votes of voters who checked a box saying they were “very conservative.” This group was 21 percent of the New Hampshire electorate, and Romney beat his next closest competitor, Rick Santorum, by 33 to 26 percent.
• Romney won among those who considered themselves conservative on social issues such as abortion (38 percent of New Hampshire voters), with 35 percent of the vote to Santorum’s 20 percent.
• He won the evangelical vote. It was much smaller in New Hampshire than Iowa.
• He won the votes of the 51 percent of New Hampshire voters who said they were Tea Party supporters. Forty percent supported him compared to 22 percent for Paul and 14 percent for Santorum.
• Pundits have hammered Romney on his so-called ceiling, an indicator that he isn’t very attractive to a wide swath of voters. But 61 percent of New Hampshire voters said they would be satisfied with Romney as the nominee (37 percent said they would not be). Compared that to 35 percent who said they would be satisfied with a Gingrich nomination, 37 percent with a Santorum one, and 43 percent for Paul.
• As expected, Romney won on electability. Thirty-five percent of voters said that the candidate’s ability to defeat Barack Obama was the candidate quality that mattered most. Romney won 62 percent of those voters.
• Romney won men and women, all age groups except the young (they went for Paul), all education groups, and marrieds. Paul won unmarrieds, who are mostly young. One possible trouble spot: Romney tied Paul among those with household incomes below $50,000, but won higher-income groups. He won the votes narrowly of those who said their family’s financial situation was falling behind, 32 percent for Romney and 29 percent for Paul.
• Sixty percent of NH voters preferred cutting the deficit even it limits job growth and only 40 percent preferred creating jobs even if that raises the budget deficit. Nationally, it is a different picture. In a mid-December CBS poll, 55 percent said unemployment was the highest priority for the nation and 29 percent said the deficit.