ROMNEY VS. ROMNEY: It seems like Mitt Romney has this election in the bag, but he’s taking some heat in recent days and the real question is how big of a win this is for Romney. He needs to top 35% and put some clear distance between himself and the second place finisher in order for this to be a true victory tonight. A five point win over a Huntsman or Paul will look more like a loss.
HUNTSMAN VS. PAUL: Second place is where all the focus has been for the last few weeks. If Ron Paul pulls off a second place, the GOP will need to confront their libertarian wing head on and Jon Huntsman’s campaign will probably sputter to a stop. If Huntsman finishes second, particularly a strong second, this race gets a whole lot more interesting and the libertarians get stuffed back into the closet to be dealt with another day.
SANTORUM VS. GINGRICH: Newt Gingrich clearly has a spring in his step, mostly because he knows he has tens of millions of dollars in SuperPAC cash waiting to provide cover fire in South Carolina, Florida and elsewhere. Rick Santorum, came into NH fresh off his win, or second place finish, or whatever that was in Iowa. With a little money in the bank, voters actually began taking a closer look at the former Pennsylvania Senator. The result is that most polls put him into a pitched battle for fourth place in New Hampshire. If Gingrich gets fourth, he gets a little bit of momentum into South Carolina. If Santorum finishes fourth, he denies Gingrich that tiny boost. It’s a relatively low stakes contest.
THE BATTLE FOR SIXTH PLACE: Former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer has been fighting for respect and is starting to register just a little bit in the polls, despite being excluded from every single debate. Romer has popped up to 2-3% in some recent surveys, ahead of current Texas governor Rick Perry’s 1%. Seems quite likely that Roemer will actually beat Perry, but could the ghost of Michele Bachmann or Gary Johnson actually outpoll Rick Perry? And if they do, does that embarrassment spell the end of the Perry campaign? If Roemer can pull 4% or 5%, how on Earth can they exclude him from the next debate?