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Mitt Romney: How he could lose in New Hampshire, even if he wins

January 10, 2012 | 10:54 am
Click here to see more photos.The Board of Expectations is now in session.

Mitt Romney is almost certain to win Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary election in New Hampshire. After all, he’s led every poll in the state since approximately 2009.

But Romney could still lose ground in the eyes of the media and professional political strategists if he fails to win by a convincing margin here, a northeastern state where he’s been campaigning for years.

PHOTOS: New Hampshire voters head to the polls

How big a vote does Romney need to look like a winner? Reporters and pundits –- the unofficial Board of Expectations, if you will -– have been debating that question in Manchester’s restaurants and bars for the last week.

Here’s what they say: Romney’s standing in New Hampshire polls over the last month has ranged between 33% and 46%. If the former Massachusetts governor comes in at the low end of that range -- say, 35% or below -- most reporters will see it as a setback. But at 40% or higher, Romney will be declared a clear winner, with momentum that can carry him through the next contests in South Carolina and Florida –- even though he won’t have come near a majority.

 What if the result is in between -- say 37%, which happens to be the average of the five most recent polls?  At least one pundit has proposed that 37% be considered a clear break-point between a win and a loss from Romney.  But the Board of Expectations is more cautious than that.  At 37%, Romney will probably be pronounced a winner, but a fragile, unconvincing winner -- still vulnerable if one of his conservative rivals can emerge as the leading alternative.


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--Doyle McManus, writing from Manchester, N.H.

Photo: Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney greets voters outside a polling station at Webster School in Manchester, N.H. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty Images

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