Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney remains on top of the New Hampshire Republican Primary field, but the race for second place between Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul is a lot closer than it was just two weeks ago.
The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters shows Romney with 33% of the vote, followed by Gingrich at 22%. Paul now picks up 18% support, his best showing in the Granite State so far. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman comes in fourth with 10% of the vote, with no other candidate reaching double digits. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Support for Romney, Gingrich and Huntsman is little changed from the previous survey, but Paul has now closed the 10-point gap between him and Gingrich to just four points.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann now each pick up three percent (3%) support in New Hampshire. Two percent (2%) prefer some other candidate, while five percent (5%) are undecided.
Forty-seven percent (47%) of New Hampshire GOP primary voters are now certain of how they will vote, up from 42% two weeks ago. Just over half (53%) say they could change their minds between now and the January 10 primary.
Romney’s support is down eight points from late October. Gingrich shot to second in New Hampshire late last month following a surge of support in both state and national surveys and a major newspaper endorsement in the Granite State. Both Perry and Georgia businessman Herman Cain, who has since suspended his campaign, took turns in second place in New Hampshire in September and October. Paul has steadily remained in third in all of those surveys.
Among Republican voters in Iowa, Gingrich leads with 32% of the vote over Romney’s 19%, but this survey also includes Cain. Rasmussen Reports will release new numbers on the Iowa Caucus later this week.
This New Hampshire survey of 721 Likely Republican Primary Voters was conducted on December 12, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
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Romney also remains the candidate best-liked by New Hampshire GOP primary voters: 27% share a Very Favorable opinion of him. Nineteen percent (19%) view Paul Very Favorably, while 16% hold a Very Favorable impression of Gingrich. Perry and Santorum are the least-liked with Very Favorables of four percent (4%) and nine percent (9%) respectively.
On the national level, voters like Romney most. Among Republican voters, however, Romney and Gingrich are running neck-and-neck, but the former House speaker has the edge when it comes to enthusiasm.
A plurality of New Hampshire Republican voters (45%) thinks Romney would be the strongest opponent against President Obama in the general election, while 29% say that of Gingrich and 10% of Paul. Thirty-one percent (31%) view Bachmann as the weakest general election candidate, but 20% say that of Paul. On the national level, Gingrich is the clear favorite among GOP voters as the strongest opponent to Obama.
Eighty-one percent (81%) of New Hampshire GOP primary voters believe the candidates’ performances in debates are at least somewhat important to how they vote, but just 27% see them as Very Important. Thirty-one percent (31%) believe there have been too many debates so far, but 52% say there’s been about the right amount.
Fifty-two percent (52%) of these New Hampshire Republicans also think known Democrats serving as news anchors should be allowed to serve as moderators in the GOP debates. Thirty percent (30%) think only Republicans should be allowed to moderate the debates, but another 18% are undecided.