MANCHESTER, NH - The very early results are in, and Mitt Romney leads Ron Paul by...two votes. That will all change by 8pm ET, when all polls will have closed. Follow the returns HERE. Let's be clear: Anything besides a commanding, double-digit win for Romney would be a surprise. Anything other than a clean victory for the former Massachusetts governor would be a game-changer. In all likelihood, tonight's drama will revolve around who comes in second place, and by what margin. The final round of Granite State surveys suggest that Romney remains in front by roughly 20 points, while Paul and Jon Huntsman are battling for runner up. The Texas Congressman may be the safer bet, but the mood on the ground here indicates a possible last-minute surge for Huntsman, who performed well in Sunday's debate and has really hit his messaging stride on the stump. Then again, he's borrowed John McCain's 2008 slogan, which might pay some dividends in New Hampshire, but probably evokes unpleasant flashbacks for many Republicans. Third and fourth place will likely be the domain of Iowa co-winner Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Rick Perry is tied at the bottom with Buddy Roemer. Fox's exit polls are leaking out, some of which indicate it could, indeed, be a big night for Mitt -- but I consider all exit polling with massive boulders of salt.
I'll be reporting from Mitt Romney's election night gathering in Manchester this evening. It will be interesting to read the mood of the room as the raw numbers trickle in. Talking to some of the Romney people, it's clear that they'd be thrilled if their man pulls in a percentage in the very high thirties or low forties. They'd try to spin a mid-thirties win as good news, but I suspect they'd be disappointed. Anything lower than that would be worrisome. Throughout the night, I'll be tweeting tidbits, observations and analysis -- as will my Townhall and Hot Air colleagues. Follow our real-time coverage below, and contribute your thoughts in the comments section as the evening progresses:
As you await the final results and my wrap-up post from New Hampshire, I'll leave you with a welcome respite from the GOP primary's internecine venom. Here's the Republican National Committee whacking the president for his evident failure to deliver on his lofty, "change we can believe in" promises:
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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