Most Republicans in New Hampshire seem resigned to the fact that they are picking the next man who will be defeated by Barack Obama. And most seem happy to let Mitt Romney win the title of “loser” this year. He has a 15 point lead if you average the recent polls. So why should you care about the New Hampshire primary?
1) Surprises do happen. People forget that on the day of the New Hampshire primary four years ago, Barack Obama had an 8.3-point average polling lead going into the day of the New Hampshire primary. If Mitt Romney drops below 30 per cent and Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman climb above 20 per cent, the story is going to be that Mitt Romney might be an unacceptably weak nominee. An 8-vote victory is not enough.
2) The Ron Paul thing. The Ron Paul fans are a notable exception to the mood. A minority of them seem to believe that, somehow, Dr. Paul will sweep away all obstacles to the presidency, and then fix this country in a few weeks by restoring the Constitution. But the vast majority of them sense that they are building a movement that will change the Republican party and, who knows, maybe Rand Paul will be president in a few years. Ron Paul, who almost everyone in the media dismissed as a crank four years ago, seems to have more than doubled his support in the party and exercised huge influence.
3) Buddy Roemer might beat Rick Perry here. Former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer hasn’t been invited to one debate, and you could make a case that he has been unfairly shut out. And yet, his message of getting corporate money out of politics has inspired a dedicated little following here. Sure, he may only get 1 per cent of the vote. But it might be more than Rick Perry gets. Perry has skipped New Hampshire for South Carolina. We interviewed Buddy here.
4) The Speeches. Concession and victory speeches can be pretty unpredictable. In 2004 we got the Dean scream, an immortal political moment that signified the end of his campaign. You may see someone end their campaign. Because the emotions can run very high and the crowd noise can be disorienting, a candidate may accidentally destroy their campaign with a poorly chosen phrase. Newt Gingrich’s Iowa concession speech was so petulant, it became the best television of the night.
5) The Next Nominee. If all goes according to the polls, Mitt Romney will be on track to be the nominee. But Jon Huntsman or Newt Gingrich could become the nominee in 2016. Or Rand Paul, who will be standing in the background of at least one speech tonight.
Or it could become clear by 8:30 pm that Mitt Romney is the nominee and that no one is really excited about it.