1. Will Huntsman leapfrog over Paul? Will it matter?
Jon Huntsman is surging here according to the Suffolk University tracking poll after a standout performance in Sunday’s NBC News/Facebook debate and the hubbub around Mitt Romney’s line about liking to fire people.
But he’s still a few points shy of second place — essentially the only position from which he can seriously continue his campaign. Even if he does pass Ron Paul, he will need to make the case that he can compete in South Carolina and Florida, despite Romney’s superior organization and fundraising.
2. Will Mitt Romney beat expectations?
Romney’s campaign has promised an overwhelming victory in the Granite State, though in recent polls he’s seen a trend in the opposite direction. Romney won 32 percent of the vote in his failed 2008 bid for the White House, behind John McCain’s 38 percent. He needs at least that higher percentage to meet expectations — and above 40 percent to beat them.
Romney needs the momentum to seal the deal in South Carolina, and avoid a protracted primary fight.
3. Did Santorum waste his time in New Hampshire?
Fresh off his near-victory in the Iowa Caucuses last week, Rick Santorum made the odd choice to campaign here instead of focusing on South Carolina — a state more likely to embrace his social conservative agenda.
His plan: To prove that he could be a national candidate.
Now Santorum and Newt Gingrich are in a fight for fourth place in Granite State according to the latest polling, a great finish for the man who lost to Romney in Iowa by eight votes.
With his momentum spent in a futile effort here, will his campaign admit it made a mistake?
4. Will Anyone Miss Rick Perry?
Tied for one percent here with Buddy Roemer in the latest Suffolk tracking poll, Perry is focusing his efforts on South Carolina after nearly dropping out after Iowa.
A finish behind Roemer — a populist former Louisiana Governor who’s been excluded from all of the debates this cycle — would be an embarrassment for Perry, even though he’s not contesting New Hampshire anymore. Perry did invest significant resources in the Granite State early in his campaign, but his support has completely eroded in recent months. If Roemer beats him, he’ll officially be irrelevant.
5. What Will Newt Say?
Gingrich is on a kamikaze mission to take down Romney, after the former Massachusetts governor’s allies spent millions to take him down in Iowa. Where he finishes won’t be that interesting — he’ll be out of the top three — but what he says in his concession speech will be. Last week Gingrich tore into Romney, and all week on the campaign trail he’s been doing the same. Will there be fireworks again tonight?
- Sixteen people died after a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in Texas Saturday.