Independents are out in force in early NH exit polling, which should help Paul and Huntsman and hurt Santorum and Gingrich, writes Nate Silver at the NYT:
One number in the New Hampshire exit polls is far more important than any other: how many independent voters turn out. Ron Paul and Jon M Huntsman Jr. perform much more strongly with this group than among registered Republicans, and need a strong independent presence to have a chance of staying close to Mitt Romney.
Although early exit poll data is not always reliable, so far the results look good for Mr. Paul and Mr. Huntsman. Nearly half of voters describe themselves as independents in the exit polls, up considerably from 37 percent in 2008. Most pollsters had assumed independent turnout would be in the low 40's, so this might be an early sign that the pollsters have underestimated the upside potential for Mr. Paul and Mr. Huntsman.
It should be said, however, that Mr. Romney also has plenty of support among New Hampshire's independents. The candidates who might be the most adversely affected by this, instead, are Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.