Mitt Romney is holding on to his double-digit lead over Newt Gingrich in New Hampshire, and Jon Huntsman has upset Ron Paul for third place, according to a new Suffolk University poll of likely Republican primary voters.
According to the poll, if the New Hampshire primary were held today, 38 percent of Republicans would vote for Romney, 20 percent for Gingrich, 13 percent for Huntsman and 8 percent for Paul. All other candidates were at 3 percent or less. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
By comparison, in a Suffolk poll conducted last month, Romney had 41 percent support in New Hampshire, Gingrich and Paul were tied with 14 percent each, Huntsman had 9 percent and Herman Cain, who has since ended his campaign, had 8 percent.
The poll underscored the depth of Romney's support in the state, in spite of Gingrich's rise. He is the only candidate whom a majority of voters there view favorably, with a 67 percent favorability rating and just 17 percent unfavorability. By comparison, although Gingrich is gaining strength, his favorability is 44 percent, and his unfavorability is 42 percent.
A lot will hinge on Iowa, but ... I still don't believe Romney loses New Hampshire, because he's got such high favorability and a pretty good field organization, David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston, told the International Business Times.
Granted, Gingrich doesn't have to win the primary outright to benefit from it.
If he can make it close, even, he should declare victory, Paleologos said. He could say that he won New Hampshire in the sense that he didn't technically win it, but he closed the gap dramatically.
But the person who is probably happiest about the poll results is Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, who surpassed Paul for the first time all year. He still lags in the RealClearPolitics.com average, which aggregates poll results -- Paul has 16 percent to Huntsman's 10.5 percent there -- but Huntsman has seen a clear upward trend in his support in recent weeks, and the Suffolk University poll is confirmation of that.