Romney with Solid Lead in New Hampshire

A flood of new surveys have come out since the Iowa caucus was completed. The polls were taken for the first two primary states -- New Hampshire, whose primary is Tuesday, and South Carolina, whose primary is on January 21. In addition, there are new national numbers for the GOP race.  The surveys have a recurring theme: Mitt Romney is the leader, and Rick Santorum,while showing stronger numbers after Iowa,  is still well behind in most polls.

In New Hampshire, the surveys show that Mitt Romney, the Iowa winner by just 8 votes, is well ahead of the rest of the contenders, with Ron Paul second and Rick Santorum, who effectively tied Romney in Iowa, far off the pace in third. Santorum has gained some ground since Iowa, but if he finishes 25-30 points behind Romney in New Hampshire, it will be Romney, and not Santorum, who gets a lift going into South Carolina.

Four surveys have been released for the New Hampshire primary over the last 48 hours, and they are remarkable for their consistency. The polling organizations are WMUR/UNH, NBC News/Marist,  Rasmussen, and Suffolk/7 News. Mitt Romney’s support in the 4 surveys is: 44, 42, 42, and 39, an average of 42%. Ron Paul is second in each survey: 20, 22, 18, and 17, an average of 19%. Rick Santorum is third with an average of 11%: 8, 13, 13, and 9. Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman are each at around a 9% average, with Huntsman’s numbers a bit more varied.

Huntsman has tried the same approach in New Hampshire that wound up working for Rick Santorum in Iowa -- focusing on the one state and meeting lots of people face to face. A 4th place finish for Huntsman in New Hampshire would effectively end his campaign, and anything less than a second place finish means he would at best limp into the next contests. Of course, Rick Santorum only started gaining momentum in Iowa in the last ten days of that race, as his competitors for the votes of evangelical Christians -- Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry -- both faded and some of Gingrich’s support shifted to Santorum.  In New Hampshire, Huntsman is facing campaigns that were invigorated by the positive press following their near tie in the Iowa finish -- Romney’s and Santorum’s.

Santorum has shifted to a more populist message in New Hampshire, a state with many fewer evangelical Christians than Iowa, but that message may not resonate very well in what is largely a white-collar state with above average incomes. Santorum also continues to shoot himself in the foot by pushing his anti-gay agenda, doing it again at a New Hampshire college event  last week. Santorum still seems to believe sanctioning  gay unions is the same thing as allowing polygamy. Santorum’s campaign in New Hampshire seems to be following the trajectory that occurred with Mike Huckabee in 2008.  After Huckabee won a clear-cut victory in Iowa, the former Arkansas governor got a modest bounce, but still finished well back in the pack in New Hampshire behind John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Newt Gingrich, in particular, seems to be on a mission to deny Romney the nomination, after being savaged by nearly $3 million in “Super Pac” ads in Iowa from a pro-Romney group, as well as other negative ads from the Ron Paul campaign.