A Good Night for Romney (Updates: They All Speak Well, But Can They Lead?)

The foregone conclusion is, well, foregoing tonight. Everyone expected Mitt Romney to win New Hampshire, and he has. It looks like he'll be in the high 30s, may crack 40 percent but probably not, rendering thoughts of blood in the water as we take this road show to South Carolina moot. Romney will go from the northeast to the south in about as strong a position as he could have hoped for, 2-0 or 1-0-1 if you count Iowa as a statistical tie.

The conservative not-Romneys remain fractured and lagging behind Ron Paul, whose candidacy is drawing support from everything from Obama supporters and occupiers to a kind of paleo conservative strain that probably dates back to one of the earlier of Texas' six flags. Maybe the French one, given his positions on national security.

By the way, I feast on the hate of Dr. Paul's more zealous supporters. So have fun.

The fact is, the not-Romneys are and will remain divided and will slug it out in South Carolina. The survivors of that will slug it out in Florida. Or maybe they won't. The undertow may start to grab underfunded and understaffed candidates down quickly. The undertow does not include Ron Paul.

Whither Jon Huntsman? He's the only not-Romney who managed to govern to Romney's right and campaign to his left. He bivouacked in New Hamsphire for months on end, he and Buddy Roemer banking on their presence here generating...something. Roemer looks like he'll have last place to show for all that, and Huntsman is coming in third well behind Ron Paul, a few points ahead of Newt Gingrich. Huntsman needed better than that. He needed second with a trajectory up to show that he can become relevant. Given where and how he has run, tonight may be his curtain call.

I'm blogging this from Santorum country, by the way. He looks set for a somewhat disappointing fifth, but his campaign played the expectations game well earlier today by claiming they would be lucky to come in third. So, not all that lucky! But not a shock finish either. There are hardly any supporters here at the moment, but a lot of bloggers - Stacy McCain to one side, Amanda Terkel to the other.  I'll probably head out shortly to check the mood at Romney HQ.

Update: Mitt Romney appeared just before 8:30 PM eastern to claim victory, despite the fact that it's customary to let other candidates speak in the sequence in which they placed, last to first. That might cause some static, but might also persuade most who are paying attention to turn the news off and tend to other things. That might cause attention to the later speakers to flag.

As I write this Romney is delivering an uplifting speech worthy of the moment. The crowd is strongly behind him. He has been planning for this moment for five years. He is training all of his fire on President Obama, as if he is already the Republican nominee.  He is a step closer to that tonight, but just a step. South Carolina has never been a state to go along with any other state's ideas without due consideration and a strong look at its own interests.

Update: Whither Huntsman? On to an improbable run in South Carolina. He's staying in.

Update: CNN seems to have engineered a way to keep Perry out of the South Carolina debate it's sponsoring. August seems decades ago at this point.