Jon Huntsman leapfrogs Ron Paul in New Hampshire, says poll

GOP candidate Jon Huntsman has replaced Ron Paul in third place in New Hampshire, behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, says a new Suffolk University poll.

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Republican presidential candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman speaks in Peterborough, N.H. Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.

The latest poll out of New Hampshire (released late Wednesday night) shows Mitt Romney well in the lead, Newt Gingrich continuing to pick up steam but a surprising charge into third place - Jon Huntsman.

Romney’s pulling 38 percent; Gingrich comes in next with 20 percent (up six percentage points since last month) and then there’s Huntsman at 13 percent, eclipsing former show horse Ron Paul at about eight percent. (See the whole poll for yourself here.)

The rest of the candidates pile up an unimpressive 10 percent of the electorate between them.

What’s behind Huntsman gaining ground? As the director of Suffolk University’s polling center points out, Huntsman is striking a chord with registered independents:

[Huntsman] is scoring his highest numbers in New Hampshire polling this year, largely due to the support of independents, who are eligible to vote in the New Hampshire primary.  Huntsman polled second among independents – besting Gingrich – and trailed Romney by just 11 percent.  In New Hampshire there are three registered independents for every two registered Republicans. “If independents participate in a big way next January, Huntsman will benefit,” said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center.  “While other candidates have focused on the more traditional Republican voters, Huntsman has traction among independents, who could dominate the Republican Primary if mobilized.”

Oh, and a Super PAC rumored to be funded by his daddy is pumping money into the state. Probably should mention that.The poll did only connect with voters who said they were “very likely” to vote in the GOP primary so those independent voters are clearly fired up to get in the fray.What else is remarkable about this poll? Other than Huntsman’s growing strength, the rest of the storyline is pretty much all Romney, all the time. Consider:

  • Perry’s horrific favorability rating: Of those who had heard of him, a whopping 67 percent disapproved to only 18 percent approval (underwater by nearly 50 percentage points.) By comparison, Sarah Palin is a negative 16 and …
  • Mitt Romney’s is plus 50, which dwarfs Gingrich (plus two), Paul (plus seven) and Huntsman (plus 10). 
  • And guess who Gingrich voters believe has a better presidential temperament? It’s not their man: “Gingrich voters (43 percent) said that Romney had the personality best suited to be president, compared to 42 percent for Gingrich.”
  • That’s not the only thing they like: “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).”
  • But not all is bright in Romneyworld: “Most notably, Romney’s lead dropped from +48 to +11 in Rockingham County, the second largest county in New Hampshire, located in the southeast along the Massachusetts border.  In addition, Romney’s lead fell from +34 to +12 among likely voters ages 55-74 years.” In other words, Huntsman/Gingrich are chewing him up where it hurts. 

Don’t just sit there, go out and see for yourself:

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