Opinion: New Hampshire’s GOP race a real one for now


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Only 13% of likely New Hampshire Republican voters have definitely made up their mind, meaning a lot can change by January’s primary balloting. But a new poll by CNN/WMUR and the University of New Hampshire finds that Mitt Romney’s 14 point lead over Rudy Giuliani in July has evaporated into a dead heat, 25% for the former governor to 24% for the former mayor.

And, watch out, Sen. John McCain, who seriously upset George W. Bush in 2000, now finishes third, up fully 6 points (or 50%) since July to 18% today.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson’s favorability rating have jumped from 29% in April to 47% now. But his voter support still stands at 13%, the same as July despite all the publicity surrounding his oft-delayed candidacy announcement earlier this month. Experts suspect Thompson is paying a price for skipping the last GOP debate in New Hampshire and for not doing the kind of door-to-door sidewalk campaigning that Granite State voters expect.


According to the poll data of 324 Republican voters between Sept. 14-17, Ron Paul’s support has gone from 3% in June and 2% in July to 4% now; Mike Huckabee has gone from 2% to 3%; Sam Brownback from 0% in July to 2% now; Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter each remain at 1%. The margin of error is +/- 5.4 percentage points.

CNN Polling Director Keating Holland says Romney maintains his lead among GOP conservatives, but his 10 point drop came among moderate and liberal Republicans, who switched to Giuliani. McCain...

is seen as having the right experience to become president while Giuliani is seen as the most likable and most electable.

Adding Newt Gingrich to the race maintains a Romney-Giuliani stalemate at 23%-22%, drops McCain to 17%, Thompson to 12% and puts Gingrich in fifth place at 7%.

But while only 13% of Republicans have definitely made up their minds, 21% are leaning toward a candidate and two-thirds are still trying to decide, meaning the race remains volatile. Romney’s entire political strategy has counted on coming out of Iowa, where he holds a sizable lead, and New Hampshire with wins moving into the more uncertain South, where he’s less known and Giuliani leads.

Among New Hampshire independents, who can vote in either party’s primary, two-thirds say they intend to cast ballots in the Democratic contest. But among the other third Romney leads Giuliani 26%-22% with McCain at 17% and Thompson at 7%.

Giuliani is viewed favorably by 71% of Republican voters and unfavorably by 22%; Romney is 65%-24%, McCain 63%-24% and Thompson 47%-19%.


--Andrew Malcolm