As local newspapers back Ron Paul – is he going to be the big winner in New Hampshire?

Ron Paul's close third place has been largely over looked in the post-Iowa assessment of Rick Santorum - will he be next week's big winner?

Every West Wing fan will tell you that as sure as day follows night New Hampshire follows the Iowa Caucus. It is the touchstone of the US primaries and has levelled many a senior politician in the past.

So following the narrowest of wins in Iowa for Mitt Romney over the surprising runner-up, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul’s 21% has been largely forgotten in the post-Iowa scrutiny that has been aimed at Santorum.

Ron Paul has been a well-known member of Congress since the mid-1970s and has been subject to a great deal of media scrutiny. This, combined with the backing of three local newspapers in New Hampshire, may mean that he becomes the anyone but Romney candidate following the contest in New Hampshire on January 10th. With the polls showing a bump in support for both Paul and Santorum ahead of next week’s primary it is going to be a close contest to see who becomes the main anti-Romney candidate ahead of the more conservative Southern states.

No recount when the result is within 8 votes! We could easily have woken up to winner Santorum…

With just 8 votes in it our TVs could easily have been telling us that Rick Santorum was now the frontrunner

As the US presidential campaign continues to roll into progress in the minds of the political classes in Britain it has been well underway in the States for months. Possibly the most surprising aspect of the results from the Iowa Caucus last night is not that Rick Santorum came a close second, though he has spent a lot of time and money in Iowa over the past few months, it’s the fact that he wasn’t allowed to ask for a recount despite being within just 8 votes of winning.

It’s astonishing that winning 30,015 to 30,007 doesn’t strike the Republican Party that this might be within the margin of error for counting 120,000 votes.

As the Washington Post explains GOP officials see the count and as such they are verified by campaign officials from all the candidates, but even so a margin of 8 votes between two candidates polling over 60,000 votes between them would see a number of recounts in Britain with a genuine possibility of the result changing.

It’s entirely possible that instead of waking up to discover that Mitt Romney had won by a narrow margin this morning, maintaining (just) his front-runner status we would be waking up to the surprise news that Rick Santorum had achieved a shock success in the polls and was now the man to beat.

But this is not a public vote and the need to achieve party consensus in what is clearly a tricky contest for the Republicans to manage, over the future of the soul of their party, perhaps doesn’t need to be thrown into Floridian style chaos quite this early.