01/10/2012 05:34 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2012

The New Hampshire Primary/Battleground

In the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary, here are a few key things to look for:

Romney's margin of victory:
It's widely assumed that Romney is going to win New Hampshire tonight. 
If Romney had come in a distant third in Iowa, he would probably
need a New Hampshire win to stay viable as a candidate.  Right now, he
only needs a New Hampshire win to maintain his momentum.  Polls taken
over the weekend show Romney with a 15-24-point lead over his nearest
rival, Ron Paul.  Though Romney has slipped some over the past few days,
no candidate seems to be gaining enough to overtake him by Tuesday
(though bigger surprises have happened).  Newt Gingrich has suggested
that Romney will have a "big problem"
if he can't crack 40 percent in the primary results tomorrow night.  I think
the fact that most polls show Romney falling just below 40 percent had
something to do with Gingrich's picking of that ceiling.  Historically, many candidates
(even the "mavericky" McCain in 2008) have failed to get 40 percent in New
Hampshire and have gone on to win the nomination.  But Gingrich isn't
totally wrong: Romney getting over 40 percent would add to his momentum going
into South Carolina, where he already has a lead.  I think a Romney
victory margin of under 10 percent probably slows his momentum a little, and a
victory in between 10 and 15 percent probably leaves his momentum about where
it is.  A loss in New Hampshire would be a blow, however.

Huntsman's numbers:
Jon Huntsman finds himself in the same position Rick Santorum was in
during early December 2011: As Santorum's future depended upon his
performance in Iowa, Huntsman's future depends upon his performance in
New Hampshire.  Unfortunately for Huntsman, he finds himself a distant
third or fourth in New Hampshire a day before voters go to the polls.  Some polling suggests that Huntsman has climbed over the weekend
If that trend continues, he may come close to or beat Ron Paul.  A
second-place performance by Huntsman keeps him in the game, as does a
close third-place finish.  If he falls behind Gingrich or Santorum,
however, Huntsman has a hard slog to Super Tuesday, let alone the

Santorum's performance: An outspoken social
conservative, Rick Santorum is the kind of candidate who shouldn't do
well in New Hampshire.  Moreover, as of a little over a week ago, he was
mired in the low single digits in the Granite State, though he's now
increased to the double-digits and is in a close contest with Gingrich
for fourth place.  No one's expecting much from Santorum in New
Hampshire: South Carolina is a much more important battleground for
him.  But a relatively strong performance in New Hampshire can set him
up for that upcoming Southern primary.  The results of the Iowa caucuses
caused Romney and Santorum to skyrocket in South Carolina
to first and second place, respectively.  Since the middle of December,
Gingrich's support has dropped there from the mid-to-high 30s to the
high teens.  But polling shows that this is still a close race in South
Carolina between Gingrich and Santorum.  If Santorum outperforms
Gingrich decisively in New Hampshire, the former Pennsylvania senator
could convince fence-sitting Romney skeptics that he is the most viable
alternative to Romney, thereby causing Gingrich's support to drop
further.  If Santorum somehow manages to outperform Huntsman, his status
would be further elevated.

New Hampshire has given the nation more than a few political
surprises, so a lot of things could happen.  With their increasingly
vicious and Ted Kennedy-like attacks upon Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich
seem to have bet on trying to weaken Romney enough to slow his momentum
and thus keep the race open in the weeks to come.  New Hampshire could
be a testing ground to see how successful they are in these
attacks -- and how much Rick Santorum will be the beneficiary of a
(potentially) weakened Romney.