Former-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is in full stride toward the finish line among likely Republican primary voters as the January 10th New Hampshire presidential preference primary nears, according to a new survey conducted by Magellan Strategies for NH Journal.
Romney tops the crowded field with a stunning 41% of the vote. Even more impressive is Romney’s image ratio: Sixty-nine percent of Granite State Republican primary voters view him favorably while only 27% view him unfavorably. These data show Romney to be easily the most popular candidate in the field.
Among the critical group of conservative voters (more than 50% of respondents), Romney blows the field away with 46% to Ron Paul’s 18% and Gingrich’s 14%.
The only subgroup in which Romney shows weakness is among young 18-34 year old voters and he still leads Ron Paul 28%-26%.
Ron Paul continues his upward trajectory by claiming 21% of the vote on the ballot. However, Paul’s image is split almost in half (47% Fav / 42% Unfav), indicating he may have too low a ceiling to catch Romney, though this has the potential to change should Paul win the Iowa caucuses and gain a head of steam into New Hampshire just one week later.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is the only other candidate in the field with a positive image ratio. Forty-three percent of respondents view Huntsman favorably versus 39% who view him unfavorably. Huntsman has also moved a bit on the ballot. He is now tied for third with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 12% of the vote.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who is showing impressive momentum in Iowa, earns only 4% of the vote in New Hampshire and has a net negative image ratio.
In addition to Paul’s surprise takeover of second place and breaking the 20% mark for the first time is the fact that Gingrich has almost entirely collapsed under the weight of attacks from Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
Huntsman appears to have lost a tremendous opportunity among moderate voters as he continues to try to position himself as the conservative alternative to Romney. A whopping 46% of conservatives have a negative view of Huntsman while only 34% have a positive opinion. Even among all Republican voters in the survey, Huntsman has a net negative 38% Fav / 41% Unfav.
But Huntsman has a solid image among independent voters 51% Fav / 36% Unfav (+15), and even better among moderate voters (more than 30% of respondents), 58% Fav / 30% Unfav (+28). Among moderates, Huntsman has surged to second place behind Romney (35-24). But, as has been Huntsman’s problem all year long, his message is confusing New Hampshire voters. He clearly is in the best position to attract moderate independent voters but has tacked rightward in recent weeks in a strategy that now appears mistaken. Meanwhile, he has abandoned moderate voters and Ron Paul is scooping them up.
For his part Paul has surged among Independent voters, and is only losing by 8 points to Romney, 33%-25%. But he is still losing Republicans badly, 47%-18%. And among moderate voters, Paul is in third place just behind Huntsman – 35% (Romney) 24% (Huntsman) 23% (Paul). While Paul is presently pulling more Independent voters than Huntsman and is virtually tied with Huntsman among moderates, his image is not nearly as strong as Huntsman among those subgroups: 50% Fav / 40% Unfav among Indies and 46% Fav / 45% Unfav among moderates. This again illustrates that Paul is picking up these voters as Huntsman tries to appeal to conservatives rather than secure his position among moderates.
In the final analysis, unless Romney has a major setback in the next 10 days he will win the New Hampshire Primary and given Huntsman’s abandonment of moderates and Independents, Ron Paul is in the best position to win second place. The biggest question now is who will be third and how close will the second and third place finishers get to Romney.
The survey of 948 likely 2012 New Hampshire Republican primary voters, and independent voters that are likely to vote in the 2012 Republican Presidential primary was conducts between December 27th and December 28th, 2011. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.85 percent.