Romney Up Big in N.H.; Huntsman Moves Into Third

Romney Up Big in N.H.; Huntsman Moves Into Third

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - December 15, 2011

A new poll released Thursday shows former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with a comfortable lead over the Republican presidential field in the New Hampshire. This comes in the wake of several polls that showed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gaining ground on Romney in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Romney attracts 38 percent of the support from likely primary voters, according to a new Suffolk University/7News poll. Gingrich places a distant second with 20 percent. Though he still has a commanding lead, Romney's advantage has narrowed by nine points since mid-November. Meanwhile, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who is banking his candidacy on a strong performance in New Hampshire, has moved into third place with 13 percent support. The remaining candidates poll in the single digits, and 11 percent of voters remain undecided.

A plurality of voters (35 percent) expect Romney to win the White House next year. Twenty-one percent say the same about President Obama while 18 percent expect Gingrich to win the general election next year.

Romney leads among independents, a key voting bloc since these voters can cast ballots in the New Hampshire primary, with 31 percent support. But Huntsman is gaining momentum with this group, attracting 20 percent of the support while Gingrich brings in 17 percent.

High independent voter turnout will benefit Huntsman the most, David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center, said in a statement released with the results. “While other candidates have focused on the more traditional Republican voters, Huntsman has traction among independents, who could dominate the Republican Primary if mobilized.”

Though Huntsman is gaining ground, 32 percent of voters either haven't heard of him or don't know enough about him to form an opinion. By a 39 percent to 29 percent margin, voters see Huntsman in a positive light. Comparatively, while most voters are familiar with Gingrich, they are split on whether they like him: 44 percent have a favorable opinion of him and 42 percent view him negatively. Meanwhile, Romney has the strongest favorability rating, 67 percent to 17 percent.

A majority of voters -- 59 percent -- trust Romney the most to turn the economy around, while 20 percent say the same for Gingrich. This is an important credential, as most Republican voters (84 percent) feel the country is moving in the wrong direction, while just 10 percent say it's on the right track. Voters find Gingrich better equipped to handle foreign policy than Romney, giving Gingrich a 46 percent to 34 percent advantage on the topic. 

Suffolk University surveyed 400 likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters from Dec. 10-13. The sampling error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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