Mitt Romney maintains his New Hampshire vise-like grip in a poll released on Monday night, which shows the former Massachusetts governor with nearly triple the support of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, his closest competitor, and amid growing support for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Romney’s 41 percent support among likely GOP primary voters and Paul’s 14 percent in the Suffolk University/WHDH-TV poll are unchanged since a Suffolk poll in September. Seven weeks away from the first-in-the-nation primary, just 9 percent of voters said they were undecided, while more than half said they were “somewhat” or “very” likely to change their minds before voting.
Gingrich showed the most positive movement in the interim, jumping from 4 percent to 14 percent. And, despite the vast preference for Romney, voters were split equally over whether Gingrich or Romney, at 34 percent apiece, would perform best against President Obama in a debate. No other candidate cracked double digits on that question.
With Romney and Paul consistently swallowing 55 percent of the New Hampshire primary vote between them, the capacity for other candidates to increase their support is confined, said Suffolk pollster David Paleologos. He said the string of insurgencies against Romney’s front-runner status has consistently hit “a firewall in New Hampshire.”
Even likely Republican primary voters believe that Romney and Gingrich were the only two candidates who qualified as “presidential.”
Former pizza magnate Herman Cain, whose ascent and subsequent slippage in the polls both occurred largely in between the two surveys, garnered 1 percent support in the September poll, and 8 percent in the latest. Sixty-one percent said sexual harassment allegations against Cain made no difference in whether they would support him, while 31 percent said the charges rendered their backing less likely. Twenty-eight percent said they believed the charges, against 38 percent who did not.
Former U.S. Ambassador to China and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has wagered his campaign that Granite State voters will respond to his brand of more centrist Republicanism, drew 9 percent in the recent poll, statistically unchanged from his 10 percent showing in September.
Both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., showed declines, Perry from 8 percent two months ago to 2 percent today, and Bachmann from 5 percent then to 1 percent now. Former Sen. Rick Santorum drew 3 percent.
Romney, who governed neighboring Massachusetts for four years and owns a vacation home in Wolfeboro, N.H., has been rock-solid in the Granite State for months, after he finished second there in 2008 to eventual nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. In May and June polls he drew 35 and 36 percent, respectively.
The Suffolk/WHDH survey of 400 likely voters in the state primary, conducted Nov. 16-20, has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., endorsed Romney this weekend, a development Suffolk said occurred after two-thirds of the surveys had been completed. Romney also picked up an endorsement from Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., though Romney’s top New Hampshire strategist, Jim Merrill, warned of a downside to Bass’s support, given the latter’s expressed openness to new revenues.
“[C]onservatives don't trust Charlie and are guessing this means he'll vote to raise taxes. No way to avoid it -- it's part of the Charlie package,” Merrill said in the e-mail to senior staff, which was obtained by a CBS News/National Journal reporter.