A race for second in New Hampshire
One should never say never in politics, but every single New Hampshire poll that has come out in recent days shows Mitt Romney with a comfortable lead.
PPP has him doubling up Ron Paul 25-18 while WMUR shows him with an even larger lead, 41-17. Jon Huntsman appears to be gaining some momentum with both polls showing him in 3rd place and moving up. Santorum's Iowa victory, as expected, has given him a mild bounce in New Hampshire, but nowhere near what he needs to be competitive.
PPP has the breakdown for second place:
The excitement in New Hampshire on Tuesday night will probably be the battle for second place. There Huntsman has the momentum. His support is up from 12% to 16%, while Paul's has declined from 21% to 18% over the last week and a half. Huntsman's favorability (55/30) is far better than Paul's (43/51) and 13% of voters list Huntsman as their 2nd choice compared to only 5% for Paul.
All of these same arguments for Huntsman potentially overtaking Paul could have been applied to Santorum overtaking Paul on our Iowa poll last weekend and of course that's what did happen when it was finally time to count the votes.
Even if Huntsman does pull the second place finish though it's hard to see that translating into much success further down the line. Among actual Republican voters Huntsman finds himself in 5th place at just 11%. But 40% or more of the electorate on Tuesday will be non-Republican and Huntsman's greatest strength is with Obama voters, among whom he gets 35% to 25% for Paul and 19% for Romney. The problem for him is there won't likely be another primary where 25% of the voters chose Obama in 2008.
Beyond the battle for second it looks like the only other intrigue on Tuesday night will be who finishes fourth, which is presently close between Gingrich and Santorum. Gingrich has stopped the bleeding in New Hampshire over the last week and a half, dropping only from 13% to 12%. Santorum though is actually the biggest gainer relative to a week ago, up 8 points from his previous 3% standing.
If you think momentum is a major factor Huntsman probably bests Paul for 2nd and Santorum probably beats out Gingrich for 4th.
By "excitement," PPP means that if Huntsman can't best Paul for second place, he will probably have to reconsider his candidacy. He's spent two straight months stumping the state from one end to the other and if he can't do better than a distant third, he will probably fold his tent.