New Hampshire Republicans lean to Romney, most undecided

Reuters News
Posted: May 23, 2011 7:48 PM
New Hampshire Republicans lean to Romney, most undecided

By Roz Krasny

BOSTON (Reuters) - Mitt Romney is the leading choice among New Hampshire Republicans as their party's 2012 presidential nominee, but most still have no idea who will get their first-in-the-nation primary vote in February, a survey showed on Monday.

The CNN/WMUR poll released by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed the former Massachusetts governor favored by 32 percent of likely Republican primary voters, consistent with the findings of other recent polls.

Romney, widely regarded as the Republican front-runner and the best-financed of the confirmed candidates, was the only contender to draw double-digit support.

The poll comes a day after another party establishment favorite, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, announced he would not run. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour opted out earlier.

"The shifting nature of the Republican field and a perception that the 'perfect candidate' has not appeared has led many New Hampshire Republicans to support the best-known candidate," said Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center.

Declared candidate Congressman Ron Paul of Texas ran second in the poll with 9 percent support. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose first week on the campaign trail was marked by a number of missteps, and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani tied for third place, with 6 percent each. Giuliani has not announced a presidential bid for 2012.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who formally entered the race on Sunday, and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who just finished five days of campaigning in New Hampshire but is still pondering whether to run, each drew 4 percent, as did Daniels.

New Hampshire has long hosted the nation's first primary race of the presidential campaign season, making it a key early proving ground for candidates' strengths and weaknesses. Next year's primary is set for February 14, Valentine's Day.

With nearly nine months to go before then, Republicans clearly have not fallen in love with any of the declared or prospective candidates.

Some 87 percent of Republican primary voters in the CNN/WMUR poll said they had "no idea" who they would vote for, while just 4 percent said they had their minds firmly made up.

The telephone survey, conducted between May 18 and May 22, polled 347 residents who said they planned to vote in the Republican primary The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Steve Gorman)