New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner made it official this morning, setting the state's Presidential primary for January 10. That's one week after the Iowa caucuses, and will be followed by South Carolina on Jan. 21, then Florida, Nevada, and the rest of the pack.
The final shakeout of the scheduling dance is, in my opinion, to reinforce what I've said all along: Iowa's religious conservatives will be a huge key to the GOP nomination.
Mitt Romney really cares a lot about illegal immigrants, when it gives him an opening against his chief political rival. He's pounding away at the issue lately, because Texas Governor Rick Perry, much like Texas Governor George W. Bush before him, has a relatively squishy record on harsh treatment of the undocmented. Likewise, four years ago Romney hammered on the topic furiously against US Senator John McCain, co-author of failed legislation dubbed "amnesty lite" by conservatives.
There weren't a whole lot of big-money institutional Republican types disappointed by Sarah Palin's announcement that she will not seek the Presidency in 2012. But there were reportedly quite a few of those folks trying to lure Chris Christie into the race.
What I haven't seen much of is the suggestion that this may have a little something to do with the GOP's problem on gay rights.
I did not actually see the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz fight Saturday, but I know a good political metaphor.
According to reports, Mayweather was leading the bout through the early rounds. An increasingly desparate Ortiz began trying to head-butt Mayweather, eventually connecting. The referee stopped the action to take a point away from Ortiz for the dirty move, at which point Ortiz made a grand show of conciliation, repeatedly reaching out to hug Mayweather -- and was still doing so when the ref called time in, at which point Mayweather took advantage of Ortiz's open arms to clock him twice, knocking him out.
Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have something in common as campaigners: they are both much better on offense than defense. Perry, as both New Guy and Frontrunner, is naturally getting targeted these days, not just by Mitt but also by the various candidates striving for relevance. I thought Perry was so-so handling that in last night's debate; not good, but not bad enough to send people fleeing for the exits.
As I always say, to judge a candidate's performance you need to consider what they were trying to accomplish. Tonight was the start of what will surely be a series of engagements in which Mitt Romney and Rick Perry battle for the Republican Presidential nomination. As I see it: Republican voters probably like Perry better, but may think that Romney is the better bet against Obama.