Mitt will win but by how much? Results are expected by 8 p.m. ET. Chris Cillizza at WaPo says the Romney camp’s shooting for 31%, the same number Bush pulled in 2000, but expectations are already being dampened ahead of the actual vote. If the Paul-bots cut significantly into Mitt’s margin and make a race of it, it’ll be a PR fiasco for Romney. The real intrigue is who takes second and third among Paul, Huckabee, Brownback, Tancredo, Hunter, and Tommy Thompson (Rudy and McCain aren’t competing today). My guess is Brownback and America’s Greatest Patriot, in whichever order; pressure on the others to drop out in the aftermath will be intense, and indeed, Thompson’s already promised to pull the plug if he doesn’t do well.
While we wait, the story at this moment is Paul, whose supporters are the loudest and, perhaps, the dirtiest. Ryan Sager’s got early anecdotal evidence suggesting Paulmania may not be all that it’s cracked up to be, but we’ll know soon enough. Dirty tricks and demagoguery are also de rigueur.
Here’s Newt’s speech to the faithful assembled, which his web outfit had up within an hour or two of its airing. The meat begins at around 8:10 if you’re counting down. Following that, the line of the day from the big A’s candidate of choice, Mike Huckabee. Stand by for updates later, maybe.
Update: Hobos for Paul!
Update: Here’s the “Fed Ex vs. Federal Bureaucracy” video Newt mentioned.
Update: Just breaking on Fox — Mitt wins, as expected, and Iron Mike is a surprising and welcome number two. No numbers yet. Stand by.
Update: A banner at FoxNews.com says Mitt took 4,516 votes. The total cast was 14,000 or so, per Marc Ambinder — off from 23,000 cast in 2000 thanks to Rudy, McCain, and Fred having not competed. Assuming Ambinder’s estimate is right, it’s a nice take for Mitt — 32% and change.
Update: 31.5% says Fox News. Huckabee took 18.1%, then Brownback at 15%, then Tancredo at 13.7%. Fred came in seventh with 1.4% — better than Rudy and McCain. No word yet on America’s Greatest Patriot but he obviously flamed out. Duncan Hunter and Tommy Thompson are obviously finished; Paul will stagger on on the fumes of his own messianism.
Update: Full results at WaPo. Paul was fifth, and closer to sixth place than he was to fourth.
Update: Brownback bet big to take second today. He lost.