We'll start with New Hampshire, then go on to South Carolina, Florida, and the national polls.
In short, Mitt is going to win New Hampshire. The primaries are tomorrow, and not even another out of the blue Santorum surge can beat Romney now. Now granted, his lead has slipped from 21.3 to 19. Well, unless we stick to my decision to remove all PPP results from overall scores. (Because they continuously, week after week, are significantly different from all other polls, thereby questioning their audience and polling questions.) Which, by the way, if you do, changes the rankings a little bit- Romney (39.6), Paul (20.2), Santorum moves ahead of Huntsman to 11.2, with Huntsman 10.2. Gingrich is moving down in the polls, not up, but could still possibly be in competition in third place. Perry is still losing miserably.
Even if Santorum and Huntsman continue to enjoy a well-timed surge, they are only going to threaten Ron Paul, and not Romney.
1. Results are in by midnight Eastern time, and we're not up till 2:30 am watching CNN.
2. We'll miss Edith and Carol in Iowa.
3. Romney wins with a massive lead.
4. Ron Paul and Huntsman duke it out for second place.
5. Santorum takes fourth.
6. Gingrich blames Romney for everything.
7. Perry doesn't drop out although he really ought to.
So on to South Carolina, where suddenly everyone is convinced the "real winner" will be picked, based on the fact that all GOP nominees won in South Carolina- a point completely disproved previously.
too soon to say, other than Romney should take first, for an historical sweep of Iowa, NH, and SC. Perry and Huntsman, who have no real reason to think they can even eke it up to third place, will drop out. The real question is whether or not Gingrich will drop out.
A question that can be answered by looking forward to Florida-
Instead of just looking at the current numbers, it helps to understand the past numbers too. In a non-stump state like Florida voters go with the popular name. Gingrich had the name recognition vote for quite some time. But don't be completely fooled by the numbers, these numbers used to have Cain and Bachmann in them as well.
Also, ignore the RCP average. They are pulling in numbers all the way back to early December (again, during Cain's heydey). Only the Quinnipiac numbers should be taken too seriously. We need more polls before we can really understand Florida, and a lot is going to happen in the next two weeks. If Romney stays strong, he can take Florida. But if there are any Gingrich surprises and he does better than expected in NH or SC, he won't want to drop out if he's still holding on in FL. It looks like Paul has been pretty static in FL over the past year. If he hasn't taken first anywhere, and doesn't move up at all in FL, expect him to drop out after FL. And I doubt Huntsman and Perry will still be around by FL, or will drop out immediately thereafter.
Which brings us to the national polls, where the hopes of the future candidates all hang. And that my friends, is where things get interesting-
In NH the order goes- Romney, Paul, Huntsman. (Or Romney, Paul, Santorum if you go with my numbers.)
In SC the lineup is- Romney, Santorum, Gingrich
And FL- Romney, Gingrich Santorum.
And nationally- Romney, Santorum, Gingrich.
In other words, we aren't seeing a consistent series of front-runners. If you are a Romney supporter you can breathe a little easier, but not too easy. An 8 point national lead isn't that confident and stable. Of course, if he really does sweep all of the early states, the 8 points will skyrocket.
But if you are Gingrich and you are in second place in Florida (and all those beautiful delegates), and you have a fighting chance in SC, and nationally you are still fighting for second, when do you call it quits? Do you ride it out and hope that Romney slips up somehow? (After all, all the other front runners have slipped up so far.)
And if you are Santorum, you are just praying hard that you can hold on to your momentum and that the money keeps pouring in. But realistically you know that that doesn't happen.
And if you are Romney, you just stay the course, barely adjusting the sails.