Romney tops Obama in N.H. poll

February 15, 2011

By Michael J. Bailey, Boston Globe staff

President Obama’s support in New Hampshire is less than granite solid.

In a WMUR Granite State Poll released today, Mitt Romney garnered 49 percent of the vote to 41 percent for the president, who took the state in his 2008 win over Republican John McCain.

Any poll this early in the election season — no prominent GOP candidate, including Romney, has even declared yet — is nothing more than political hardtack for old political salts to chew upon. And most of the likely voters in the poll said they have not yet decided whom to back. Nonetheless, if the former Massachusetts governor is to be successful in a second quest for the White House, the path is likely to begin in New Hampshire.

Romney stumbled out of the gates in the 2008 GOP primaries, losing to McCain even though the state was in his political backyard. To prevent a rerun of that result, Romney has focused much of his early energies on the state, setting up a quasi operational base there at his summer home in the lakes region.

The poll shows Romney well out in front of potential GOP challengers, getting the nod from about 40 percent of likely voters in the Republican primary. The rest of the pack were huddled in the single digits, save former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had 10 percent of the votes. They were followed by 7 percent for former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, 7 percent for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 6 percent for former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, 6 percent for 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, 5 percent backing Representative Ron Paul, another 2008 candidate, and 3 percent for businessman Donald Trump.

Romney has consistently led potential Republican candidates since the UNH Survey Center began tracking the race two years ago. The center conducted the poll for WMUR.

“Romney is doing well in part because his brand of Republicanism fits with most New Hampshire Republicans, who can be characterized as ‘Rockefeller Republicans,'” Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center, told WMUR. “New Hampshire is one of the least religious states in the country, and social conservatives have difficulty winning here. Fiscal issues are much more potent in the Granite State.”

President Obama fares better among all likely voters in a hypothetical matchup against Palin, winning 57 to 34 percent.

The survey polled 757 randomly selected adults — including 357 likely Republican voters — from Jan. 28 through Feb. 7. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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