Poll: Romney leads New Hampshire, Huntsman in third, Perry in fourth

Mitt Romney still holds a commanding lead in New Hampshire, a state where Perry has barely broken through, according to a poll released Thursday.

The Suffolk University/7News poll found Romney leading with 41 percent of the vote from independents and Republicans. His closest competition is Ron Paul, with 14 percent, followed by Jon Huntsman with an uncharacteristically high 10 percent. Perry, who has topped most national polls since announcing his candidacy, does not even break double digits, getting just 8 percent of the primary vote.

Romney continues to have high popularity in the state, with 69 percent saying they hold a favorable opinion of him and just 20 percent saying they hold an unfavorable opinion. Voters are still much more ambiguous when it comes to Huntsman: Twenty-six percent say they have a favorable opinion of him, and 24 percent hold an unfavorable one. Another 24 percent have never heard of him, and 26 percent have yet to form an opinion.

Approximately one-third of New Hampshire primary voters have either not heard of Perry or have yet to decide what they think of him. Among the remaining voters, 36 percent say they have a favorable opinion of him, while 32 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion.

In New Hampshire, Romney is still seen as the favorite to win the election, with 28 percent saying they expect him to be the next president. Twenty-two percent expect Obama to win re-election, and 12 percent say Perry will be the next president. Thirty-two percent are undecided.

In the 400-person sample of likely New Hampshire primary voters, 50 percent say they are Republicans, 42 percent unenrolled or independent, and 6 percent Democrats. Ideologically, 49 percent describe themselves as conservative, 42 percent as moderate, and 7 percent as liberal.

That demographic breakdown has some New Hampshire strategists dismissing the results.

“It’s crap,” emailed Patrick Hynes, a national Republican strategist who lives in New Hampshire. “Way too many independents (42-ish percent) sampled and way too many self identified liberals/moderates (49 percent).”

“The numbers don’t make too much sense,” emailed New Hampshire Republican strategist Mike Dennehy. “Their sample includes 42 percent independents — should be 30 percent — and 49 percent are moderates/liberals which is WAY off — should be 35 at most. That’s why Romney is so high and explains Huntsman at 10.”

Perry’s results seem somewhat low, given the 27 endorsements from state representatives he announced Wednesday. Dennehy said the numbers were probably somewhat off for Perry, given that conservatives — the demographic with which he gets the highest support in other polls — were underrepresented in the sample, but noted that the Texas governor has yet to make a major play in New Hampshire.

“I believe Perry is at about 15 when you factor in more conservatives voters. Either way, Perry hasn’t been here too much and he hasn’t had any town hall style meetings. When he spends more time and campaigns the way he needs to I think he can do well. But New Hampshire is still Mitt’s to lose and he is extremely strong. And with respect to Huntsman, it’s important to note as many people dislike him as actually like him, which is a very unenviable place to be. That being said, he still has an opportunity but he’s going to need to spend a substantial amount of money to build a positive image.”

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