No surprise. Despite some late movement in the polls toward Mitt Romney, John McCain has won the NH primary. The final percentage is likely to change, but as of this post he’s leading by 6 points.

On the one hand, this is an awfully impressive political comeback. McCain was trailing badly in the polls and in our very own Power Rankings just a couple months ago. He was written off as rotten political meat by pundits and users on this site and countless others. But “Mac is back,” as his supporters chanted tonight during his speech.

On the other hand, why are we surprised McCain did well in a state that’s famously independent and that he won just eight years ago? Why are we surprised that he won when his Achilles’ heel, immigration, has significantly faded as an issue? When Romney was leading in the NH polls McCain wasn’t yet on TV reminding voters how much they loved him in 2000. Once he began campaigning in earnest in the state, and the ad buys kicked in, his numbers began to rise and Romney’s fell.

Make no mistake about it, this was a bad night for Romney. He staked his campaign on the well-known “kindling” strategy. Win Iowa, win New Hampshire, watch it take fire across the country. Instead he’s placed second in both states despite massively outspending his opponents. It could be worse for Mitt, of course, he could be Rudy or Fred, two candidates struggling for any headline right now.

Where do the GOP front runners go from here? Romney must win either Michigan or South Carolina. Even if he doesn’t he’s likely to stay in the race until February 5th. But second place finishes look like losses in politics, no matter how you spin it. Can he still win Michigan and blunt McCain’s mojo? Yes, but after tonight McCain is the favorite there. South Carolina? That’s a much tougher state for him, but a victory there isn’t impossible.

If McCain wins Michigan he’s the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. States that follow have a tendency to vote by the bandwagon effect. They want to be on the side of the eventual nominee. Even if Rudy fares well on February 5th, McCain is likely to win enough states to chase the remaining horses from the track.

If Huckabee wins South Carolina (he’ll do no better than third in Michigan) he’s likely to do very well in Florida, perhaps even winning. Wins in those states would make him formidable on Super Tuesday.

The biggest disappointment of the night just might be the anemic returns for Ron Paul. New Hampshire was a state he and his supporters targeted for a big surprise. A win? No. But third or fourth place seemed very much within reach. It appears he’ll finish 5th at just 8%. Raising 20 million in a quarter was pretty impressive, but after two major contests and one minor contest (Wyoming), Ron Paul is just another guy running for president finishing snugly in the second tier.

Now about that McCain speech. I have never seen a candidate read a concession or victory speech — ever. McCain read every word of a lengthy, bulky speech, often clumsily, and looked awkward and uncomfortable at the podium. Come on, Senator, you just had the biggest night of your political life. Put the notes down, look in the camera, and tell us your going to Disneyland.

UPDATE: Made a mistake above saying McCain won NH four years ago, instead of eight. Obviously everyone knew what I meant. He won the last presidential primary in the state. Also, Hillary read her speech as well, meaning John McCain is no longer alone as the only loser I’ve seen read a victory or concession speech word for word. I didn’t see Obama, maybe he joined the club as well.

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