The latest University of New Hampshire poll of Republican Presidential candidates in the New Hampshire primary has Governor Romney with 32% and a commanding lead, since no other candidate reached 10%.
But Ron Paul led the chase pack with 9% support. Next were Rep. Gingrich and Governor Palin with 6% each.
So could Ron Paul be the candidate that will take on Mitt Romney? Live Free or Die New Hampshire would be a near ideal state for Ron Paul to breakthrough if he is going to go from fringe candidate to a contender for the nomination.
The mood of the Republican Party has certainly moved toward Ron Paul who was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party.
But can Ron Paul grow from his 9% support to 35%? Odds are no, even in the perfect setting that New Hampshire is for Paul. But it is not impossible.
If Ron Paul does not emerge as the candidate that will fight Romney for the nomination, who will?
Smart money says Governor Pawlenty. Too easy and not fun so let us keep going.
Don't rule out two-term US Senator Rick Santorum. Senator Santorum has been often discounted in his political career only to win races.
Daniels, Trump, Huckabee, Barbour leaving the race and the near implosion of Gingrich all create a real opportunity for Santorum who is running hard right on social issues and thrilling neocons with his Bush Doctrine foreign policy.
Really pay attention to Santorum if Palin does not get into the race as Palin and Santorum have almost identical issue profiles. Santorum needs Palin to not run. And he needs to prove he can raise money at the Presidential level.
Michelle Bachmann can raise money, is a Tea Party darling but she too needs Palin not to run.
Ultimately this nomination will be won in the South as now all the strong contenders are outside the region, unless Gingrich recovers from near fatal, self-inflicted wounds.
Paul has regional ties, but the South has previously not been fertile soil for his libertarian philosophy.
This time around the Presidential track, Rep. Paul quickly said that he would have voted against the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act that ended racial disrimination in public accomodations and other racist practices throughout the South and elsewhere.
If Paul cannot rally the South and I am guessing he cannot, the Northerner--Romney, Santorum, Pawlenty, Palin, Bachmann-- who whistles Dixie best may well win the Republican nomination.