Why New Hampshire hasn't joined the anti-Romney bandwagon
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney struggles to get more than 20 percent support in most polls. But he's long held a healthy lead in New Hampshire. The two are well matched.
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Most surveys in recent months show Romney with about 40 percent support among people likely to vote in the New Hampshire GOP primary. A Bloomberg News Poll of 504 such voters conducted Nov. 10-12 showed Romney at 40 percent, Rep. Ron Paul at 17 percent, and Newt Gingrich at 11 percent. By comparison, the same poll also looked at Iowa voters and found Romney with only 18 percent, slightly behind Cain and Congressman Paul.Skip to next paragraph
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Some of the social issues that bother more conservative voters don’t seem to be a detriment in New Hampshire. Romney has been criticized for supporting abortion-rights in the past and “flip-flopping” to position himself as pro-life. But 74 percent of the likely voters in New Hampshire wouldn’t rule a candidate out for changing positions on abortion, the Bloomberg poll shows.
Romney has also taken heat from some Republicans nationally for his support of a mandated health-insurance law in Massachusetts when he was governor. Calling it “Romneycare,” his critics have said he’s not a good choice to dismantle the national version of health reform dubbed “Obamacare.”
But only 46 percent in New Hampshire would rule out a candidate on that issue, compared with 58 percent in Iowa, according to the Bloomberg poll.
None of this is to say that Romney has a definite lock on the nomination here.
“New Hampshire has a way of being quirky,” says Linda Fowler, a political scientist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. Hillary Clinton edged out Barack Obama here in 2008, despite being behind in polls, and Senator McCain beat George W. Bush in 2000.
Given Romney’s name recognition and the way he’s worked the state, “maybe the story is, he should be doing even better,” Professor Fowler says.
There are doubts about Romney in two directions, she explains: “Hard-core” Republicans think he’s too much of a “Massachusetts Republican,” and some independents worry that he’s not enough of one anymore, that he’s moved too far to the right.
That leaves an opening for a challenger, and the latest who seems to be gaining steam is Mr. Gingrich. Paralleling his rise in national polls, the New Hampshire Journal reports that its new poll shows Gingrich practically neck in neck with Romney in New Hampshire, 27 percent to 29 percent, with a 3.59-point margin of error.
The poll of 764 likely voters, both Republicans and independents, was conducted Nov. 15 and 16. Several polling experts and political scientists say they wouldn’t be surprised if Gingrich is moving up, but it would be important to see other polls – conducted over a longer time frame and with interviews, rather than the autodial method this one used – to verify if the New Hampshire electorate has shifted that significantly.
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