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Poll: Mitt Romney in command in New Hampshire

Christmas brought good news for GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, who is holding on to his double digit lead in the critical early primary state of New Hampshire.

This morning’s Boston Globe poll shows the former Massachusetts governor leading the Republican field with 39% among voters likely to cast ballots in the Jan. 10 Republican primary. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has led in some national polls, was tied with Texas Congressman Ron Paul in second place with 17%.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has spent virtually all of his time campaigning in New Hampshire, won the support of 11% of likely GOP voters. All of the other candidates ranked in the low single digits. (The University of New Hampshire Survey Center conducted the poll of 543 likely 2012 Republican primary voters. The margin of error within that group was plus or minus 4.2%).

Romney’s potential path to the Republican nomination relies on a sizable win in New Hampshire, where he owns a summer home and has been laying the ground work for his run since he withdrew from the 2008 presidential race. Though Iowans will be the first to cast ballots on Jan. 3, Romney spent three days touring New Hampshire last week in his campaign bus – hitting as many as six stops in one day.

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After returning to the Granite state Tuesday for a morning visit, Romney will set out on a bus tour of Iowa. Though he notched the endorsement of the influential Des Moines Register, his prospects are far more uncertain in the Hawkeye state where evangelical voters – some of whom are suspicious of his Mormon faith and his shifts on issues like abortion – dominate the caucuses. Gingrich, who is also launching an Iowa bus tour next week, has led Romney in Iowa by more than 10 percentage points in several recent polls.

In the Boston Globe poll, Romney held a wide lead over his rivals among New Hampshire voters who support or are active in the tea party. He faced greater competition for the state’s undeclared voters, voters who are unaligned with either party and may choose to cast their ballot in the Republican or Democratic primary. Romney won the support of 32% of those independent voters, Paul was backed by 25% of them and Huntsman 16%.

Most likely GOP voters in New Hampshire said Romney had the strongest family values; Paul led the field when voters were asked who was the most “consistent conservative.”

Though the primary is two weeks away, only 26% of likely GOP voters said they had settled on a candidate. Paul’s supporters were most certain of their choice in the poll, which was conducted between Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. But across the state, more than two-thirds of voters said they expected Romney to win the New Hampshire primary.

maeve.reston@latimes.com


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