Last night I posed three questions that I thought might (but probably wouldn’t) be answered by a New Hampshire Primary that was setup to be as dull as the previous night’s BCS National Title. So how did it go?
1) Can Romney fail to meet expectations?
Answer: He survived. With 40% in the current tally and an early projection of 38%, Romney lands right on the dot of his expectations. In a primary like this though, merely holding serve may be enough. With the new GOP rules granting proportional delegates for each contest, Romney may actually benefit from failing to exceed expectations, thereby keeping the wave of Anti-Mitt sentiment split between opponents who all believe they can hold on. Early polling shows him leading with about 32% of the vote in South Carolina, so go ahead and set the bar for the next primary right there.
2) Can Huntsman capitalize if he beats expectations?
Answer: N/A. Huntsman “surged” considering his single-digit polling a mere week earlier, but garnering less than 20% and finishing below Ron Paul failed to beat the expectations set for Huntsman during the media frenzy touting his surge. So if he failed to exceed expectations, he has nothing on which to capitalize. The Palmetto State will be a nightmare for Huntsman (he’s polling below Stephen Colbert), whose conservative credentials are questioned by the Tea Party faction, because of his bold stance that science exists.
3) Can New Hampshire force any of the Anti-Mitts out of commission?
Answer: No. As discussed above, the numbers seem to work perfectly for Romney, who managed to keep Gingrich and Santorum about even and prevented either from pushing the other out and capturing the Anti-Mitt vote. So it’s on to South Carolina to see who best fits the Anti-Mitt mantle.