As far as expectations are concerned, it’s hard to see Romney emerging from New Hampshire in anything resembling serious trouble. While he has been campaigning here, his poll numbers in South Carolina, and even in Florida, have been steadily rising. A recent Rasmussen survey of South Carolina showed Romney, who was back in the pack not too long ago, in the lead, slightly ahead of Santorum, and farther ahead of former South Carolina front-runner Newt Gingrich. A CNN-Time poll showed Romney with a more substantial lead in the Palmetto State.

And second place in New Hampshire? There could be a fight between Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman over the runner-up spot, or there could be a fight between Paul and Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich. Or perhaps the contest will be between Huntsman, Santorum and Gingrich for third place. In any event, it’s just not the big battle for the big prize.

The fact is, for a Republican presidential candidate, the South is the big prize. It is the rock-solid base of the Republican Party, and a candidate has to do well there to grab the nomination.