Manchester, New Hampshire — The rooms where the candidates held their election-night parties tonight were a reminder of how quickly the polls have moved. Reporters were warned that Jon Huntsman’s campaign had booked the bar when their candidate was fifth in the polls; his late boomlet meant the place was packed like a can of sardines by the time the candidate spoke. The Newt Gingrich campaign, by contrast, booked the ballroom at the Radisson, presumably when their candidate was second in the polls last month; there was plenty of room there tonight.
Gingrich is, as I write, less than a hundred votes ahead of Santorum in the race for fourth place, with 80% of precincts reporting. I must admit I’m slightly surprised; I expected Santorum to be ahead. Maybe he will be by the time all the votes are in, but the fact that it’s this close demonstrates something a local journalist — who agreed with my assessment that Santorum was stronger on the stump — told me about New Hampshire: Santorum-style social conservatism just doesn’t play very well here.
It doesn’t appear that anyone is going to drop out before South Carolina, which is good news for Mitt Romney; with Ron Paul showing limited but consistent staying power and the rest of the candidates (other than Huntsman, whose declaration that “we go south from here” is likely to be true in more ways than one) dividing the more conventional anti-establishment conservative vote, it’s hard to see how Romney doesn’t make it to the nomination from here.