MANCHESTER, N.H. -- And away we go. CNN's exit polls point to an easy Mitt Romney victory and Ron Paul in second place -- a Huntsman surge that did not go far enough.
From here on in, it's blog posts as I have the bandwith and time to write.
8:17: At the Paul party, with only two small-ish TVs, it takes quite a long time to share the news that the candidate will come in second place. Steve Matthews, a volunteer and business parter of State Sen. Tom Debois, watches the news on the larger TV, checking his optimism.
"I think this is a high point," he says. "This may be as high as he can get."
"Well, I think I underestimated him," says Debois. "I bet he'd only get 22 percent."
8:33: The mood is compltely jubilent. Chris Lawless, a key Paul organizers, makes the rounds accepting congratulations. Mike Williams, a Paul volunteer from Lowell, celebrates how all the "ideas that matter are coalescing in one candidate."
8:38: One of the under-reported stories of the Paul movement: How many state legislators have followed in his footsteps. Seth Cohn, who moved to NH as part of the Free State Project, glad-handled and pronounced the victory "awesome."
Jim Forsythe, a Paul volunteer who'd been elected to the State Senate in 2010, got to introduce his mentor.
8:50: Paul takes the stage and is as raucus as I've ever seen him. Mind you, I've been going to Paul speeches since 2007. "The media likes to pronounce us DANGEROUS," he says. "They're right! We're dangerous to the status quo. We're a danger to the Federal Reserve System!"
9:10: Will Kolb, the disabled Paul volunteer I met in Salem, looks up and notices that I'm next to him.
"I'm sorry," he says. "I had to say, 'Fuck Obama,' just once."
9:33: Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton sticks around, victory-lapping, telling my friend Garrett Quinn just how pathetic the Huntsman campaign is. Meanwhile, Huntsman is on TV telling the world that he's "in the hunt."
9:40: Jack Hunter, a blogger and radio talker who goes by the nom de plume "The Southern Avenger," knocks back drinks with radio host Mike Church.
"Conservatism is winning," says Hunter. "Everybody is a Tea Partier now. Ron's been talking about cutting $1 trillion from the deficit, and none of the other candidates are talking about anything close."
"The entire news media's been saying that foreign policy is Ron Paul's Achilles Heel," says Church. "Wrong. It's not the Achilles Heel. It's the bicep."
10:10: With 73 percent of precincts counted in the Democratic primary, Barack Obama is winning only 82 percent of the vote. Compare that to 2004, when George W. Bush (who, like Obama, lost the New Hampshire primary), won... 80 percent of the vote. Now, when Pat Caddell tells you that the write-in vote for Hillary Clinton was a historic sign of something, you can assume the usual position and laugh at what a failure he is.
10:43: On the way out of Paul's party -- the main event is going to move to a bar in Concord, anyway -- we get the surest sign that the Man The Media Won't Cover is a star. Vermin Supreme, the anarchist, dada un-candidate who wears multiple ties and a boot for a hat, has arrived to meet Paul's people and accept the attention of the media.
"Where are you going next?" asks my friend Garrett Quinn, a conservative radio host.
"I'm going to South Carolina, and Florida, and Michigan!" says Vermin. "Aaaaagghhhhhh!" He's mobbed for photos.
11:01: Buddy Roemer's party at a downtown sports bar has just ended; he's headed home, just a little crushed that he couldn't outpoll Rick Perry. (Earlier in the day, he'd daydreamed to a Daily Telegraph reporter about beating "one of these sons-a-bitches that spent a million dollars."
11:29: Jon Huntsman's party at the Black Brimmer bar is over, but his staff and campaign embeds are still there, taking advantage of a well-stocked, oval-shaped bar. Workers slowly break down the set, leaving up a massive, nailed-down COUNTRY FIRST sign for the TV reporters to use in live shots. Jon Weaver, Huntsman's campaign manager and the progenitor of the "occupy New Hampshire strategy," sticks around to commiserate.
"You take a surge when you can get it," Weaver shrugs. "We needed a few more days."
My friend John LaBeaume asks Weaver why Ron Paul closed out his campaign by attacking Huntsman. "I don't live in a parallel universe," says Weaver, "so I don't know."
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