The nation’s first primary is closing up its polls in a couple hours and we’ll be in a better position to evaluate the course of the GOP nomination. There are three questions that New Hampshire may be able to answer…but probably won’t.
1) Can Romney fail to meet expectations? Fivethirtyeight, the gold standard for poll analysis believes Romney will still win, but recognizes that a loss is “thinkable.” If Romney fails to meet the lofty expectations set for him as an (adoptive) favorite son, does he enjoy momentum for winning two in a row, or get dogged by more questions for limping through the process.
2) Can Huntsman capitalize if he beats expectations? Huntsman is surging, but given a likely second or third place finish far behind Romney and the campaign moving to South Carolina where Huntsman is not even recognized as a conservative (despite having arguably the most aggressively conservative economic plan), is success in New Hampshire anything but a footnote to history?
3) Can New Hampshire force any of the Anti-Mitt’s out of commission? The Anti-Mitt vote is waiting to coalesce around someone, be it Gingrich, Santorum, or even Perry. But while all three remain in the mix, they will continue to split the vote to Romney’s benefit. Perry is ignoring New Hampshire, but a roughly equal result for Gingrich and Santorum guarantees both stay in the race, helping Romney long-term.