Everyone is pretty sure Mitt Romney is going to win the New Hampshire primary tonight -- the most interesting competition will be for second place. We'll find out who New Hampshire's anti-Romney voters are willing to settle for: the moderate Jon Huntsman, the libertarian Ron Paul, the socially conservative Rick Santorum, or the angry muffin Newt Gingrich. Each of them has been in second place behind Romney at some point, except Huntsman, whose billionaire dad could have bought unlimited ads backing his campaign if only Huntsman would have asked. Democrats and independents can vote in this primary, so it will be interesting to see who exit polls show they voted for. (Ron Paul's campaign thinks they could upset Romney if they get enough independents.) Most polls close at 7p.m. eastern time, with a few staying open till 8p.m. We'll be liveblogging the polls, returns, class warfare, protests, jokes, and funny pictures starting at about 7 p.m.
10:10p.m.: With 64 percent of precincts reporting, Romney has 37.6 percent, Paul has 23.8 percent, Huntsman has 16.8 percent, Santorum has 9.8 percent, and Gingrich has 9.7 percent. Rick Perry, who quit competing in New Hampshire some weeks ago, managed to almost double the number of votes earned by Buddy Roemer, the guy not invited to almost all the debates and who lost the governor's seat in Louisiana in 1991 thanks to the candidacy of David Duke. Perry got 0.7 percent; Roemer got 0.4 percent.
All candidates vow to continue the fight tonight. Alas, this liveblog cannot go on. Thanks for reading!
Okay, one more thing: Tea Partying Sen. Jim DeMint says he thinks Romney will win South Carolina.
10:00p.m.: Sick burn: Fox plays all of Santorum's speech, doesn't even mention Gingrich is speaking, too, for several minutes. Class warfare comes at a steep cost, Newt. Finally Sean Hannity cuts of Santorum for Newt's speech.
9:45p.m.: Gingrich and Santorum both have 9.9 percent. On Fox, Karl Rove predicts it will be Santorum who wins fourth place.
9:35p.m: Huntsman's speech was interrupted by chants of "country first!"
9:15p.m.: Ron Paul did 16 points better than he did four years ago. (Romney did 3 points better.) In his concession speech, it was clear he loves his fans:
9:02p.m.: Ron Paul thanks the New Hampshire Union Leader "for not endorsing me." Zing! (The newspaper endorsed Gingrich, who is just ahead of Rick Santorum for fourth.)
"I sort of chuckle when they describe you and me as DANGEROUS! That's one moment when they are telling the truth because we are DANGEROUS TO THE STATUS QUO!"
8:50p.m.: Here are the (telling) groups Huntsman won tonight, according to CNN: Democrats (41 percent), people who oppose the Tea Party (44 percent), people who are "satisfied" with the Obama administration (39 percent), and people who say they aren't satisfied with the Republican candidates (29 percent).
He tied with Mitt Romney among people who said the right experience was the most important quality for a candidate (34 percent).
8:40p.m.: Romney in his concession speech: "President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial -- and in the past few days we've seen some desperate Republican candidates try to do the same. This is a big mistake for our party." Then he turns to the general election, saying, for example, that Obama "doesn't believe in military superiority. I will insist on a military so powerful no one would dare ever challenge it." That last bit seems unlikely, since our last wars were started by guys in caves, but I guess everyone gets to indulge in a little hyperbole at the victory party.
8:35p.m.: NBC News' Chuck Todd points out that Paul is doing better than John McCain did in his best counties in 2000, saying it showed his appeal to those voters helped him beat Huntsman. Sen. Rand Paul, Paul's son, said earlier this week he thought maybe that independents could help his dad beat Romney, too.
8:24p.m.: Ann Romney looks pretty happy as she introduces her husband for his victory speech. She is much better at showing genuine emotion than her husband:
8:20p.m.: NBC reports Huntsman isn't dropping out of the race. He says he's heading to South Carolina on CNN.
8:18p.m.: Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin tweets, "Dance floor at Newt party still not happening despite Sweet Caroline playing."
8:15p.m.: Fox says 51 percent of percent of Huntsman's voters are satisfied with the job President Obama's doing.
8:12p.m.: Like Fox, MSNBC declares Paul to win second place. NBC News' Chuck Todd says the Romney people are thrilled, especially because Paul isn't going to compete in Florida.
8:11p.m.: Rachel Maddow tries, and fails, to get former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu to declare Gingrich and Perry "socialists." He'll only say their attacks on his favored candidate, Romney, are socialist.
Our Ray Gustini calls Sununu's treatment of MSNBC a thorough "roundhousing."
8:10p.m.: Fox News reports exit polls 44 percent of voters were independents. They favored Romney, with 30 percent supporting him, 29 percent voting for Paul, and 27 percent supporting Huntsman. Twice as many independents made up the primary voters as did in the Iowa caucuses.
8:06p.m.: Political Wire's Teagan Goddard posts: "Exit poll results: Romney 36%, Paul 23%, Huntsman 18%, Santorum 10%, Gingrich 10% and Perry 1%."
8:04p.m.: Just about the minute the cable networks called Romney as the winner, Politico's Glenn Thrush tweeted, "Romney just entered venue of his party, Southern NH univ, beaming accompanied by wife and CBS (60 mins?) crew."
8:00p.m.: Fox predicts Romney, Paul, Huntsman go 1-2-3.
7:57p.m.: With 10 percent reporting, Romney's at 35 percent, Paul's at 25 percent, Huntsman's at 16 percent, Gingrich's at 11 percent, and Santorum is at 9 percent.
7:44p.m.: Occupy Wall Street folks are protesting in Manchester as "Millionaires for Mitt." If the photo below is too dark to tell, the man in the center is mid-greedy cackle:
"You're fiiiihred, Patrick!" "I'm fired? What I'm I going to do, live off my trust fund? Ho ho ho!"
7:33p.m.: Here's something that could have affected turnout for a full 10 percent of voters. In the final hours before polls closed, Rick Santorum risked alienating a small but relatively successful minority group. Discussing Romney's "I like to fire people" comment, Santorum told ABC News' Jake Tapper Tuesday:
"It was certainly an inarticulate way of phrasing what he wanted to phrase, but it’s a little bit of a gotcha…I am not going to make a big issue of that, I understand what he meant, we all say things a little left-handily. But obviously the way you say things left-handily can provide some insights on how you actually see things and we’ll let the American public figure that out."
That's right, Santorum's going after lefties. He used "left-handedly" as a synonym for something bad, clumsy, unwanted. Twice! What did lefties ever do to you, Rick Santorum? Lefties, underrepresented in office supply design but overrepresented in the presidency of the United States, are an upstanding community, by and large able to write just fine, only rarely struggling with residual problems telling left from right thanks to dense kindergarten teachers ("Remember, you write with your right hand!") This cruel, unnecessary, and hurtful remark cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. While the left-handed community doesn't have the clout of Dan Savage, we too, suggest a third redefinition of Santorum's name, like so:
- Presidential candidate, former senator from Pennsylvania.
- "Frothy" … blah blah blah.
- Stupid, worthless scissors that make your hand cramp most excruciatingly.
7:31p.m.: Some counties have closed! With 1 percent reporting, Romney has 38 percent to Paul's 23 percent and Huntsman's 16 percent.
7:20p.m.: Some polls have closed, while the big cities close at 8p.m. ("big by New Hampshire standards," as Fox's Shep Smith puts it.) The New York Times' Nate Silver posts a map of how Romney performed in 2008, a standard he'll probably be judged by, just as he was in Iowa. (Romney got fewer votes in the caucuses this year than four years ago.) Romney won 31 percent of the vote in New Hampshire last time. Even if Romney wins fewer votes, though, he'll still be the first Republican who's not an incumbent president to win both Iowa and New Hampshire.