Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be the frontrunner in national polls but we don't have one huge transcontinental primary. Presidential nominations are won in the states and right now, New Hampshire Republicans strongly prefer Mitt Romney over his nearest rival, according to a new Suffolk University poll.
With 41 percent of those surveyed indicating Romney as their first choice, the former Massachusetts governor had a nearly 27-percentage point lead over his closest rival in the state, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas who came in at 14 percent.
If that's not indication enough of how much New Hampshire's Republican electorate differs from GOP voters elsewhere, then how about this? Jon Huntsman Jr., the ex-Utah governor and former Obama administration ambassador to China, came in third at 10 percent. National polls consistently place him in the low single digits.
Meanwhile, Perry was at 8 percent in the Suffolk University poll, barely leading Sarah Palin who isn't even an announced candidate.
Unfortunately for Romney, Massachusetts doesn't border Iowa, South Carolina, Florida among other states where Perry is polling more strongly than the former New England governor.
Still, Romney's strength in New Hampshire means that if the situation remains stable and Perry does very well in Iowa, Romney could break the Texas governor's momentum in New Hampshire with that state playing the role it has in past primaries as a "firewall."
An excerpt from the pollsters' release:
"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. "The anti-Romney candidate at this point could be either Ron Paul, who has polled consistently over the past year, or Jon Huntsman, whose numbers are really growing in the Granite State."
Perry actually does much better as a second choice if voters' top preferecne drops out of the race, according to the poll:
In the event that their first choice dropped out of the Republican primary, those polled named Romney (21 percent) over Perry (20 percent) as their "second choice." Paul received 9 percent as a second choice.