Rick Perry is topping national polls of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates, but a new survey of likely primary voters in New Hampshire shows the Texas governor in a distant fourth place in the Granite State.
The disparity between Perry's standing in national polls and this New Hampshire poll underscores the difficulty politicians from the South have long faced in the first-in-the-nation primary.
Perry received single-digit (8 percent) support in the Suffolk University/7 News poll of 400 voters. It was conducted by telephone from Sept. 18 to Sept. 20, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, placed first with the support of 41 percent of the poll's respondents. But surprising second- and third-place finishes by Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman are giving each candidate and their supporters something to cheer about.
"The poll results demonstrate the emergence, in that state, of a surprise three-way race that omits Texas Governor Rick Perry," Paul's campaign said in a statement Thursday.
"A new poll just released shows Governor Huntsman's support jumping in New Hampshire, and confirms what we have known all along about Jon: once you get to know him, you're for him," Huntsman's campaign manager Matt David wrote to supporters.
Paul, a Republican representative from Texas, received the support of 14 percent of the poll's respondents, and Huntsman received 10 percent. Both Paul and Huntsman gained 6 percent since the last Suffolk University survey.
Huntsman has made New Hampshire the cornerstone of his 2012 strategy.
"I think we can win New Hampshire," Huntsman said on Bloomberg's "Political Capital With Al Hunt" last weekend. "I feel a good buzz." Huntsman said "time on the ground," message clarity and authenticity will endear a candidate to New Hampshire voters.
"They want a frank and an honest and a common sense conversation and that's what they're crying out for."
Paul has also been campaigning hard in New Hampshire where his campaign views his libertarian background as an advantage in a state with numerous independent voters, who are allowed to vote in the Republican presidential primary.
Romney's lead in New Hampshire has grown since Perry entered the race.
Historically, Southern politicians have not fared well in the state, especially when pitted against a local favorite from New England. Bill Clinton, for example, lost the Democratic primary in New Hampshire in 1992 to Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts.
But ideology can also trump geography in New Hampshire. Arizona Sen. John McCain, a moderate, beat Romney and other Republican rivals in 2008 to win the primary.
The 2012 candidates will next appear together in New Hampshire on Oct. 11 for a debate at Dartmouth College.