Jon Huntsman's big moment; Ron Paul defends the fort

The most important battle in New Hampshire today is between Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul for second place and for independent voters. If Huntsman comes in second in New Hampshire, he will get a big boost and a new infusion of money, and could become the ultimate final challenger to Mitt Romney in the coming weeks and months. But Ron Paul is ferociously defending the fort, i.e., his push to win the silver medal of second place.

It is striking how little Rick Santorum seems to have gained after Iowa, how far Newt Gingrich has fallen, and how Rick Perry has become a minor-league player. The only Republican now in the race with a credible chance of ultimately defeating Romney for the nomination and then defeating Obama in the general election is Jon Huntsman.

Whether Mitt Romney is ultimately determined a big winner today will be decided, in my view, by how close he comes to 40 percent. There could well be a second winner, Huntsman, who could emerge as a big winner if he comes in second place with 20 percent of the vote.

Will today be Jon Huntsman's last stand and Ron Paul's next launching pad, or will today be Jon Huntsman's golden moment, with the day after beginning a whole new chapter of Huntsman versus Romney for the big prize?

I am pulling for Huntsman today, but who knows? I love this stuff. Don't you?