Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney enjoys a comfortable lead in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation race for the Republican presidential nomination while Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann shows signs of breaking through after a universally lauded debate performance on Monday night, according to a new survey by Magellan Strategies for NH Journal, the first New Hampshire survey taken since the debate.
In addition, former Utah Governor and Obama’s past Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman enters the presidential campaign with more Republicans viewing him unfavorably than favorably.
Romney leads all contenders with 42% of the vote. Texas Congressman Ron Paul and Bachmann are tied with 10% each. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin earns 7% while former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani earns 6% followed by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who gets 5%. Four percent say they would vote for Newt Gingrich while Herm Cain and former Obama official Jon Huntsman both earn 3%. Rick Santorum gets 2%.
But the most surprising numbers emerged when we asked which candidates had the strongest debate performance. We asked this question of the 54% of respondents who said they watched the televised debate either on WMUR or CNN.
Thirty-nine percent said Romney gave the strongest performance. But an impressive 28% said Bachmann did. No other candidate finished in double-digits. Among self-identified conservatives who watched the debate, Bachmann performed even better. Among this group, 37% said Romney had the strongest performance, while 33% said Bachmann.
Romney remains very popular with Granite State Republicans. Sixty-nine percent say they have a favorable opinion of him, while only 21% say they view him unfavorably. Bachman is viewed favorably by 55% of respondents, while 28% have an unfavorable view of her. Giuliani is viewed favorably by 53% while 35% view him unfavorably. Forty-two percent view Pawlenty favorably versus 29% who view him unfavorably. Herm Cain is viewed favorably by 39% and 30% view him unfavorably.
Paul and Santorum are all viewed slightly more unfavorably than favorably.
Gingrich faces long odds barring a major turnaround. Sixty-two percent view the former Speaker of the U.S. House unfavorably versus 29% who view him favorably.
However, the favorability numbers for the little-known Huntsman are particularly alarming. Only 14% of Republicans view him favorably. More than twice that number – 36% – have an unfavorable view. Among self-identified conservatives Huntsman is in even worse shape. Only 11% of them have a favorable view of Huntsman versus 41% who have an unfavorable view. The numbers are potentially problematic for Huntsman because he has announced he will not compete in the Iowa caucuses and will instead make his stand in the Granite State. Huntsman’s chief strategist John Weaver is steeped in New Hampshire’s political scene, having served as a chief strategist for Democratic U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
This survey was conducted among 727 likely 2012 New Hampshire Republican primary voters, and independent voters that are likely to vote in the 2012 Republican Presidential primary. The interviews were conducted June 14th – 15th, 2011. This survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.63% at the 95 percent confidence interval.