As voters head to the polls Tuesday in New Hampshire for the first-in-the nation Republican presidential primary, expectations count nearly as much as actual votes, leading rivals to question not whether frontrunner Mitt Romney will win but by how much.
It would be difficult for Romney to exceed expectations since he’s polling nearly 20 points ahead of his closest competition. But a poorer-than-expected showing means Romney could be vulnerable. And that’s what his opponents are counting on.
“The biggest story today is going to be how much Governor Romney falls short of any kind of reasonable expectation because he’s been living here, literally bought a house, was the governor next door for years,” said Romney rival Newt Gingrich. “And people expected this to be his fortress. I think it’s not going to be much of a fortress.”
For many pollsters, Romney must win with about 37 percent of the vote to match the definition of blowout required by those evaluating the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign.
While Romney’s polling has been slipping in the past week, the Suffolk University/7News tracking poll Tuesday showed Romney polling at 37 percent, nearly 20 percentage points over his next nearest competitor, Ron Paul.