The surge of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has left some wondering if he could actually take on former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, a state the former Gov. of Massachusetts has been dominating. Romney has maintained a huge lead in the state, and until recently no other Republican had even challenged him there. But Gingrich has done better in New Hampshire polling during the last few weeks than any non-Romney candidate had before, scoring in the low twenties in trial heats and consequently bringing Romney’s lead down.
However, a new poll of the state from Suffolk University shows that Romney still gets nearly two-fifths of the Republican vote in the state, and while his lead is smaller, he remains up on Gingrich by 18 points. Romney gets 38 percent of the vote to Newt’s 20, followed by a resurgent former Ambassador and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who sees 13 percent. The rest of the field is in single digits.
Pollsters said that the issues, namely the economy, were driving the choices of New Hampshire GOP voters. While most of the attention in the race nationally has focused on the ever-changing poll position, Suffolk said that Republicans simply think Romney will be better on the most important concern of Americans in 2012.
Of the two leaders - Romney and Gingrich - Romney was trusted more to fix the economy by 59 percent to 20 percent over Gingrich, while 62 percent of voters said Romney would be better at bringing America together than Gingrich (18 percent). Romney was considered to have the personality best suited to be president (70 percent) compared to Gingrich (16 percent).
“These numbers show the depth of Romney’s strength,” said Paleologos. “We’ve seen that the economy has been the most important issue for the better part of two years, and New Hampshire voters clearly see Romney as the one to fix it. The favorable view of Romney’s personality and ability to bring America together was seen even among Gingrich voters.”
A few polls have shown Gingrich closing the gap against Romney, and the TPM Poll Average shows the race tightening. But Romney remains way ahead:
The Suffolk University poll used 400 live telephone interviews with likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire conducted from Dec. 10th to the 13th. It has a sampling error of 4.9 percent.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.