The former Massachusetts governor has avoided embarrassment, winning the Granite State — as expected — by a margin that’s set to be healthy enough to erase memories of his Pyrrhic victory in Iowa. Ron Paul can also declare victory, as he’s poised to shatter the 20 percent ceiling he encountered in the Hawkeye State; he’s added to his momentum over the past week. Based on exit polls, CNN places Romney first, Paul second, and Huntsman third. Gingrich is ahead of Santorum in early returns: the most Santorum could have accomplished here would have been to beat Gingrich decisively enough to claim to be the sole movement-conservative alternative to Romney. Tonight’s results suggest that both of them will hang around for South Carolina, which will work very well to Romney’s advantage. (For all the talk about Gingrich remaining in the race to hurt Romney, his presence in South Carolina can only help him.)

Gingrich and Santorum don’t have the money to go all the way, and Huntsman may not be around long after tonight. Romney looks unstoppable, but what will happen if — as one can expect — Paul continues to challenge Romney in a two-man race? You could see some interesting rebellions in unlikely places. Romney and the GOP establishment will put a lot of pressure on Paul, and perhaps his senator son, to get him to drop out. Or they might have to make a concession: a convention speech on the Federal Reserve, perhaps? (They won’t concede on war, unfortunately, but they’ll have a hard time scripting Paul if they do give him a slot.)