Romney Maintains Lead in New Hampshire
Mitt Romney continues to hold a wide, but soft lead in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, and the former Massachusetts governor is well-positioned to capture the state's four electoral votes against President Obama, according to a new WMUR-TV/University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll released late Friday.
Romney leads with 37 percent of the vote, up slightly from 35 percent early in the summer and well clear of upstart businessman Herman Cain, who is second at 12 percent. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, runs third at nine percent. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who most recently served as U.S. ambassador to China, tied for fourth at eight percent.
The more moderate Huntsman is banking on New Hampshire, recently moving his campaign headquarters from Florida to the Granite State, while Giuliani is still pondering a bid but is considered unlikely to run.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he intends to compete in the Granite State's primary, is well behind Romney and the other leaders, tying former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with just four percent of the vote.
Perry's negatives have risen sharply over the last three months. In the previous poll, conducted in late June through the first day of July (more than a month before Perry officially joined the race), 34 percent of likely primary voters had a favorable opinion of Perry, while 15 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Now, the percentage of likely primary voters holding a favorable opinion has ticked up to 36 percent, while the percentage having an unfavorable opinion of Perry has jumped to 43 percent.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who announced Wednesday she would not seek the Republican nomination, earned three percent; the vast majority of interviews were conducted before her announcement. When the second choices of respondents choosing the unlikely candidate Giuliani or the non-candidate Palin are substituted for their original selections, Romney leads with 42 percent, compared to Cain at 13 percent, Paul at 11 percent, Huntsman at 8 percent and Paul at 6 percent.
Ten percent of voters said they were undecided, but that may be a poor reflection of the primary electorate's flexibility. Just 11 percent of likely voters say they have definitely made up their minds, while an additional 21 percent said they are leaning toward a candidate. A whopping 68 percent of likely voters said they were still trying to decide -- a sign that, while Romney leads, the state is by no means a lock for him.
Romney runs slightly stronger among women than men but still leads by wide margins among both genders. Romney also performs well across all education levels, while Perry only takes three percent among college graduates and two percent among those with post-graduate educations.
The vast majority, 65 percent, of likely voters expect Romney to win the state's primary, with every other candidate below 5 percent on that measure.
A majority also thinks Romney has the best chance to beat Obama in the general, where, among all likely 2012 voters, Romney leads Obama, 50 percent to 42 percent. That is a larger lead than the four-point advantage Romney enjoyed early in the summer.
While Romney would lead Obama by eight points, Obama would lead Paul, 47 percent to 43 percent, and Perry, 49 percent to 42 percent.
UNH surveyed 559 likely 2012 voters from Sept. 26-Oct. 6, for a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent. There were 345 likely voters in the Republican primary; those results carry a margin of error of +/- 5.3 percent.