Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has a commanding lead in the Jan. 10 New Hampshire Republican primary, according to three new polls released Friday that show Romney could become the first nonincumbent to sweep the first two GOP nominating contests in the modern campaign calendar.
The three polls all show Romney—who currently holds a slender lead in Iowa—blowing out the competition next week in his adopted home state, while former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., has received only a modest bump following his surprising surge to a virtual tie for first place in Iowa on Tuesday. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is in second place in each of the three surveys, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is fading. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is staking his entire primary campaign on a strong performance in the Granite State, trails badly in each of the polls.
- Suffolk University in Boston, which has been conducting a two-day tracking poll for Boston-based WHDH-TV since Dec. 30, released its first poll conducted entirely after the Iowa caucuses. The latest results—compiled from interviews with likely primary voters on Wednesday and Thursday—show Romney leading Paul, 40 percent to 17 percent. Santorum runs third, at 11 percent, while Gingrich is fourth, at 9 percent. Huntsman is at 8 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry earns just 1 percent of the vote.
- The University of New Hampshire Survey Center conducted a poll for WMUR-TV in Manchester, N.H., from Monday through Thursday. In the full poll, Romney led Paul, 44 percent to 20 percent, with Gingrich and Santorum tied at 8 percent. Huntsman is at 7 percent. But UNH also provided results for the last two days of the poll, following Iowa: Romney leads with 43 percent, followed by Paul (18 percent), Santorum (11 percent), Gingrich (9 percent), and Huntsman (7 percent).
- A new NBC News/Marist poll, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, shows Romney leading Paul, 42 percent to 22 percent. Santorum jumped to third place, with 13 percent, followed by Gingrich and Huntsman, each at 9 percent.
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As in Iowa and other states, the New Hampshire polls show a significant drop in Gingrich's support. In the NBC News/Marist poll, Gingrich has plummeted 15 points since late November, arguably the peak of his candidacy.
The polls also show the breadth of Romney's lead. He leads across genders, among most age groups (Paul leads among those voters 18-34 in the UNH poll but not the Suffolk poll), and among those voters who identify with the tea party and those who do not.
The UNH poll crosstabs also break out the horse race by religion, and the poll shows that Santorum has not yet made significant inroads with Catholic voters, who made up 38 percent of the 2008 primary electorate. Santorum captures the vote of 10 percent of Protestants, and just 9 percent of Catholics.
Campaigning in Tilton, N.H., Romney sounded a note of caution about the results.
"I know some pollsters say I'm doing real well. Let me tell you, those polls, they can just disappear overnight," he said. "What you say to a pollster is a bit like going on a date. It’s like well, I might try this but you know, getting married, that's something else. So we need to make sure you’re working real hard and I'll keep working real hard.”
Meanwhile, President Obama continues to face tough sledding in the Granite State. Just 40 percent of all New Hampshire registered voters approve of the job he is doing as president, according to the poll, equal to his poor approval rating in late November. Nearly half of voters—49 percent—disapprove of Obama's job performance.
The Suffolk University poll surveyed 500 likely primary voters, for a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
The UNH poll surveyed 631 likely primary voters, for a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. That includes 318 interviews conducted after the Iowa caucuses; those results have a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.
The NBC News/Marist was conducted by Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The poll surveyed 2,263 registered voters, for a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. There were 711 likely GOP primary voters, for a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Sarah B. Boxer contributed