While Mitt Romney has been way ahead of the other candidates in the Republican primary for months, voters can change their minds very quickly, which is why a Romney aide told The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny reported Saturday, "I'd like to vote tomorrow." A lot has happened since Saturday. Romney is still in first, but a couple guys have polled in second place in the last week. In the presidential primaries, you can win by losing -- Bill Clinton became the "comeback kid" by getting second place there in 1992. You just have to "beat expectations." Here's are guide to what those expectations are:
Candidate: Mitt Romney
Expectations from the campaign: Crush everyone. His spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom tweets, "NH poised to deliver verdict on Bain attacks against Romney as last Suffolk poll shows Romney ticking up 4 points overnight."
Expectations from the press: Crush everyone. No one predicts an upset in New Hampshire Tuesday. While NBC News' First Read writes that Romney has had the "toughest 48 hours of his presidential bid so far" -- the attacks on Romney's Bain says undercutting the "central rationale of his candidacy" -- they don't think he'll actually lose.
Poll trend: Looks like a crushing. Romney's support has held the lead in New Hampshire since this spring. While the guys competing for second place have swapped spots in polls, Romney has held onto a 20-point lead for a long time. Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen writes that Romney's support has never strayed from 35 percent to 36 percent, he has a high favorability rating, and his supporters are the most committed. Of the two little towns that have already voted, The Washington Post's Felicia Sonmez reports that Romney won or tied for first in both.
Candidate: Jon Huntsman
Expectations from the campaign: ABC News' Jake Tapper tweets, "saw Jon and Mary Kaye Huntsman in the hotel lobby this morning. He predicted a result that would shock some pundits." But his campaign has waffled over whether he'll win or just do "well," Politico reports.
Expectations from the press: The Washington Post's Richard Cohen, E.J. Dionne, and Eugene Robinson say he'll get second. The American Spectator's W. James Antle III picks third. But that doesn't matter, John Podhoretz says. Podhoretz, who gets paid to have his opinions published on paper and the internet, tweets, "My prediction for NH: Whatever number Huntsman gets, the media will pronounce him the winner."
Poll trend: He's quickly gained support in the past week or so, several polls show. He has momentum, Public Policy Polling says. The New York Times' Nate Silver puts him in third with about 17 percent of the vote. Among the little New Hampshire towns that have already voted, Huntsman did so-so. Dixville Notch: tie for first. Hart’s Location: third.
Candidate: Rick Santorum
Expectations from the campaign: Santorum told Fox News that coming in second would be "beyond our dreams," The Hill's Geneva Sands-Sadowitz noticed. He explained, "to be very honest with you we're hopeful to finish somewhere in the three, four, five... That would show that we've got the momentum and that our grass roots effort is still on the rise."
Expectations from the press: Better than terrible? Jay Rosen pointed to the way these expectations are set last week: Politico's Roger Simon said on MSNBC, "The problem for Santorum here is not getting in double digits, he will. The problem is how we in the media define Romney’s success or failure here. If Santorum can keep Romney’s margin of victory below ten percent; that is, if he can keep Romney to a single digit victory, Santorum will claim that he had a very good night and I think the media will agree with him. However, this is a tough state to do that in. Romney lives here. Neighboring governor..." The Washington Post's Marc Thiessen thinks he'll get second.
Poll trend: Santorum was briefly in third place, replacing Gingrich, before dropping behind Huntsman. At Real Clear Politics, Santorum is averaging 11.5 percent for fourth place. The New York Times' Nate Silver's polling projections him in fourth, with 12.3 percent of the vote. No votes in Hart’s Location or Dixville Notch.
Candidate: Ron Paul
Expectations from the campaign: Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul, said Thursday, "I think there’s a remote chance we could pull an upset here if there is a large independent turnout -- if all of a sudden, in the last two days, independents said, 'We want to send a message, and we want to get out and vote,'" Politico reports. "Gov. Romney does pretty well with independents, too, up here, but I think we can beat him with the independents if we get a big turnout."
Expectations from the press: Slate's Dave Weigel says that Huntsman's gain on Paul is "a small danger sign" for him. "He put together a big lead for second place, and he's struggling to keep it. Huntsman, who has won the most glowing media attention I've ever seen since Dakota Fanning's first junkets, is succeeding a little in his quest to pull independents and liberals from Paul." Weigel continues, "If Paul blows it, I know what to blame: The odd final day of his campaign." Paul battled with the media and had to cancel an event Monday. The Washington Post's James Downie, Kathleen Parker, Alexandra Petri, and Jennifer Rubin predict he'll get second.
Poll trend: Polling averages show Paul has dropped a little bit in the last week or so. Silver puts him in second with 18.5 percent of the vote. Of the towns that have voted, Paul came in second or tied for it. He has a high unacceptability rating.
Candidate: Newt Gingrich
Expectations from the campaign: He'll finish in the "top three or four," Gingrich said Tuesday.
Expectations from the press: Fourth, according to the The American Spectator. Few predict he'll finish in the top three.
Poll trend: Silver puts him in fifth with 11.5 percent. Real Clear Politics' poll averages show the same. As for the folks who've voted, in Dixville Notch, Gingrich tied for first. In Hart’s Location, he tied for fourth.