I check the RealClearPolitics “Latest Election Polls” every morning before anyone can spin them for me. I don’t think Romney can win by 20 points in New Hampshire, but a double-digit victory there will power at least a respectable showing in South Carolina, and the Florida numbers in the Quinnipiac poll are the most revealing about how significant is Romney’s advantage even before New Hampshire adds to the momentum. He’s up 12 among likely voters there, and the internals tell a very important story: Romney’s favorability rating is to the plus side 73-14 among GOP likely voters, Santorum’s at 59-8, and Gingrich much farther behind at 59-29, a handicap that will grow larger as Newt returns to his very negative persona of Sunday morning’s debate.
Florida voters have already requested and received more than 400,000 absentee ballots for the January 31 primary. Mitt Romney’s campaign has been mailing material to those voters, and now Ron Paul has joined it in appealing to this large number of early voters, so the Florida primary has already begun, and it will accelerate on January 21 when “early voting” begins in the Sunshine State. Saturday night’s widely-watched debate helped Romney –a lot. Sunday morning’s less watched debate helped Santorum –some. But the numbers out of Florida suggest that it would take a huge stumble on Romney’s part to lose that contest, and Florida is the key, not just to the nomination, but to November 2012 as well.