By Jason McLure
LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Republican Mitt Romney holds a wide lead in the key early primary state of New Hampshire, while Texas Governor Rick Perry is struggling with the state's mostly moderate voters, a new poll showed.
The former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, Romney was the choice of 41 percent of those likely to vote in the state's Republican primary, according to a Suffolk University/WHDH TV poll released late on Wednesday.
Texas Representative Ron Paul polled second with 14 percent and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who has campaigned heavily in the state, was third with 10 percent.
Perry, a favorite of more conservative Republicans, was fourth with 8 percent, just ahead of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who has not yet said whether she will enter the race, and who came in with 6 percent.
The results suggest that some analysts may have been premature in saying the Republican race was evolving into a two-candidate race between Romney and Perry, at least in New Hampshire.
"Mitt Romney is saying 'get out of my back yard' and making New Hampshire his strong firewall despite showing some weakness in the other states' early primaries," said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University's Political Research Center.
Romney's support was 5 points higher than a similar poll released in June. Support for Paul and Huntsman was 6 points higher.
New Hampshire will hold the first presidential primary in February, days after the Iowa caucuses, which is the first contest in the nominating race.
The statewide poll of 400 likely Republican presidential primary voters was conducted by telephone September 18 to 20 and had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.
Huntsman, facing low national poll numbers and fund-raising troubles, has staked his campaign on doing well in New Hampshire.
Romney, who owns a vacation house in the state, has been a steady presence since finishing second in the 2008 New Hampshire primary to eventual Republican nominee John McCain.
(Editing by Lauren Keiper and Cynthia Johnston)