Mitt Romney holds a commanding advantage against his potential presidential rivals in the first primary state of New Hampshire, a new poll released Monday shows, a strong signal for the early frontrunner in a state he must do well in.
Romney receives 40 percent support, according to the WMUR Granite State Poll of likely Republican primary voters, 30 points more than his next closest competitor, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty tied for third, with seven percent each.
It's not a surprise the former governor of nearby Massachusetts is running strong in the Granite State - he also owns a home there. But the survey is a reminder that despite widespread concerns over his support for an individual mandate in Massachusetts - the same mandate despised by conservatives in President Obama's national health care bill - Romney's candidacy possesses enviable early strength in a critical primary state.
But Romney's rivals still have time to make inroads -- the poll found 78 percent of likely voters still haven't made up their minds.
Giuliani's second-place showing might surprise some because it's unclear if the former mayor is serious about running again in 2012. He was completely off the presidential radar screen after flaming out in 2008, but last month said he was considering another campaign.
After Pawlenty and Huckabee, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin each received six percent. Five percent backed Rep. Ron Paul, and three percent backed reality TV star and businessman Donald Trump.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who has already spent significant time in the Granite State, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour finished last, attracting one percent of the vote apiece.
The poll surveyed 357 likely GOP voters and had a margin of error of 5.2 percentage points. It was conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.