The political press had a field day in Iowa because Iowa gave them the things they like. They had something new (the Santorum surge), they had a close race and they had controversy. This GOP field almost guarantees controversy - the 11th Commandment of "Thou shalt attack no other Republican" is as dim a memory as most of the rest of the truth about Reagan has become - and Michele Bachmann quitting will be new for a day or two. But for a close race, New Hampshire ain't it.
Suffolk University is doing a daily tracking poll in the Granite State, the only new polls from anyone in over a week. The numbers are just lying there like some old dead animal. Romney is at 43% as predictably as clockwork and the closest thing to a surge is None Of The Above passing Ron Paul for second place. This poll was taken before Bachmann quit and Perry tweeted something positive about "on to South Carolina", but that will make little difference to the Republicans of New Hampshire, who had been giving both of those candidates 2% each until Perry slipped on Tuesday to 1%.
Here's the thing. Romney is currently supported by over 50% of the voters who have made up their mind, since 43/82 is about 52%. 50% of the vote in a six person race is a good old fashioned ass whuppin'. There's no way to spin "we finished second" into anything like good news.
The strength of None Of The Above this close to the election is startling. I think a lot of those people are going to stay home. Back when I was a lad, Doonesbury would have several weeks of New Hampshire campaigning strips in the December before a presidential election, but being a political junkie now means getting a steady stream of Iowa news before Christmas and barely a week of New Hampshire stories before their little election is over and done. Given that old people vote in larger percentages than the young, None Of The Above looks like a symptom of the New Hampshire voters' depression over no longer being the prettiest girl at the dance.
Let me scrunch together all the enthusiasm I can muster over the race for second place. Okay. Now that I see it in a nice neat pile, that's not a lot of enthusiasm.
Let me state the obvious. Romney will be in first and Perry will be in sixth. I expect the few Bachmann voters in New Hampshire will throw their puny weight to Santorum, as will some of None Of The Above. This was supposed to be the state where Huntsman was going to finally make a showing over 10%, and while that is a possibility, he is going to be hard pressed to beat Paul or Santorum now. That means Gingrich and Huntsman are scrapping for fourth place. Newt might go higher, but the trend line is definitely down for him everywhere, as it has been since early December. That would say the top three finishers in New Hampshire might well be the same as Iowa, but this time with Romney far and away in the lead and the fight between Paul and Santorum being close.
We will see if any of the polls in the next four days put an exciting spin on these numbers, but really, when the guy in first is outpolling the next five guys combined, "exciting" really isn't an option.