A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway, Tuesday, Jan. 10:
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
NEW HAMPSHIRE SPEAKS: Mitt Romney battled his Republican presidential rivals and high expectations in New Hampshire's primary, the nation's first and one known for surprise endings. Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry shared the ballot. Huntsman bet his candidacy on a strong showing in New Hampshire. Santorum, the surprise second-place finisher in Iowa, said repeating that feat in New Hampshire "would be a dream come true." A victory by Romney would also be history-making: He'd be the first Republican to sweep the first two contests in a competitive race since Iowa gained the leadoff spot in presidential campaigns in 1976.
HANDICAPPING NEW HAMPSHIRE: Few of the candidates were bold enough to forecast the verdict New Hampshire voters would render on their suitability to be the GOP presidential nominee. Of those who were, Gingrich said he hoped to finish in the top three or four in the six-man field. Paul predicted a "real nice second place." Santorum said repeating as runner-up "would be beyond our dreams."
HANDICAPPING NEW HAMPSHIRE - GINGRICH EDITION: The former House speaker sought to set the expectations bar ever higher for Romney, telling Fox News Channel that the big story of the day is that Romney will fall short of "any reasonable expectation" in New Hampshire, next door to Massachusetts where Romney once was governor. Romney has been the heavy favorite, with a commanding lead in the polls. Gingrich said the conventional wisdom is that New Hampshire is Romney's for the taking, but he added that it won't turn out to be "much of a fortress." Gingrich would, of course, prefer a weakened Romney heading into the next contest in the series, in South Carolina on Jan. 21. Gingrich argues that he's more conservative than Romney, who was spurned by the Southern state when he sought the GOP nomination in 2008. Romney now has the backing of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
CAROLINA, HERE WE COME: South Carolina will be the center of the Republican Party's universe for the next 11 days, when the state holds the South's first primary. South Carolina proudly boasts of its record of having voted for the Republican nominee every year since 1980. Quite a lot _ including bragging rights and the viability of one or more of the campaigns _ hinges on the outcome. Gingrich, Santorum and Perry, as they slug it out to emerge as the more conservative alternative to Romney, are working hard to woo tea party and religious conservative voters who call the state home. Perry, who performed poorly in Iowa and all but skipped New Hampshire, is looking to South Carolina to revive his lagging campaign. He's been in the state since Sunday.
NEW HAMPSHIRE NUMEROLOGY:
_ 250,000: Number of ballots expected to be cast, according to Secretary of State Bill Gardner.
_ 12: Number of Republican National Convention delegates at stake.
_ 2: Where Romney finished in the 2008 primary, behind John McCain.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS:
_ "I was talking about, as you know, insurance companies. ... We all like to get rid of our insurance companies." _ Romney explaining his "I like to fire people" comment.
_ "I want to beat Mitt Romney. I don't think he's conservative enough, but if he loses the election because he restructured companies, I don't think that's a healthy way to sort out the candidates." _ Paul on the criticism of Romney's work at his former firm, Bain Capital.
_ "Allowing these companies to come in and loot people's jobs, loot their pensions, loot their ability to take care of their families. I would suggest they're just vultures. They're vultures and they're sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick. Then they swoop in and eat the carcass. They leave with that and they leave the skeleton." _ Perry, in South Carolina, discussing Romney and Bain Capital.
_ "This is going to be a long primary season. ... The longer it goes, I feel like it is an episode of `Survivor.' Keep me on the island." _ Santorum to reporters while shaking hands with voters.
_"We're all going to be dividing the vote and I think it will shake itself out when we get to South Carolina." _ Gingrich.
_ "Dixville Notch might be a harbinger in this race." _ Huntsman talking about his 2-2 tie with Romney among the six Republican votes cast at midnight in the tiny New Hampshire village of Dixville Notch.