Mitt Romney is going to win the New Hampshire primary tonight — but is he going to WIN it? See, it's no fun for political writers to simply declare a Mitt Romney victory a victory. What are we supposed to write about for the next year, if he just keeps winning every primary? Policy? Yeesh. And so Mitt Romney must contend with the "expectations game," in which folks with a vested interest in not seeing this primary season end sans hyperdrama come up with a random number that Romney must "hit" tonight, lest his campaign collapse entirely.
The Democratic party, most of all, would like to see Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman feel just viable enough following today's voting that they proceed optimistically to South Carolina and continue attacking Mitt Romney's brand of capitalism for a while. So Mitt Romney must, uh, get at least 32% of the vote. No — much more than that than that! "Simply put," they'll leave it vague:
And the central rationale Romney has made for his candidacy – that his business experience and economic background make him fit to lead the country – is unraveling before our very eyes. That's where Mitt Romney stands heading into tonight's New Hampshire primary – and simply put, if Romney doesn't greatly exceed 32 points he got in his 2008 second-place finish, this will be a loss for him.
The Manchester Union Leader's top political guy John DiStaso, who would like the beat that he owns to produce some sort of national political value in a year when Mitt Romney, stubbornly, has never trailed in New Hampshire, has a similar take:
With the latest New Hampshire polls showing him with more than double the support of his closest rival, Romney can't escape the expectation that he should not only win the first-in-the-nation primary next Tuesday, but that anything less than a double-digit victory margin would be an under-performance and a sign of weakness in what is supposed to be his stronghold, his catapult to the nomination.
Mitt Romney will be dead if he wins by 9 percentage points instead of 10 percentage points!
How about Romney's own expectations?
"Oh I hope that we do well," Romney told reporters in the Granite State this morning. "I note that if we get double the number of vote margins that we had in Iowa I'd feel terrific." (Romney won Iowa by eight votes over former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. See what Mitt did there?)
Have you seen Mittens on the television today or yesterday? He has probably used this line, for its perceived proximity to the planet Humor.
What should our arbitrary Gawker Expectations be for Mitt Romney? I'll start the opening bid at "Romney must get 52% of the vote and beat all of his opponents by 50 percentage points or he will have to drop out and live in Guantanamo Bay for being such a miserable failure" because I want to write up hilarious Newt Gingrich things for a couple more months.
[Image via AP]