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Romney polls strong as N.H. vote nears

Mitt Romney campaigned yesterday with Senator John McCain in Salem, N.H.

bill greene/globe staff

Mitt Romney campaigned yesterday with Senator John McCain in Salem, N.H.

Two polls released today indicate that Mitt Romney has a sizable lead in New Hampshire as Tuesday’s Republican primary draws near, with over 40 percent of voters supporting the former Massachusetts governor and Texas Representative Ron Paul far behind in second place.

A NBC News/Marist poll shows that 42 percent of respondents support Romney, including undecided voters leaning toward a candidate. Paul trails Romney by 20 points. Rick Santorum, who surged to a strong finish in the Iowa caucuses, is at 13 percent.

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Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman is locked in fourth place with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 9 percent, despite Huntsman’s focus on the Granite State primary. Texas Governor Rick Perry polled at 1 percent, and 5 percent are undecided.

“Expectations are sky-high for a big Romney victory,” Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a statement.

The Republican debates on Saturday and Sunday are “the last best chance for a major turnaround that would deprive Romney of a decisive win,” Miringoff said.

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In the Suffolk University/7News poll, Romney polled at 41 percent. Paul got 18 percent, Santorum had 8 percent, and Gingrich and Huntsman tied at 7 percent. At the bottom of the field, Perry, former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who suspended her campaign this week, combined for 2 percent.

Romney dropped two points from the last Suffolk/7News poll, according to a statement on Suffolk University’s website. Paul jumped four points and Santorum edged up by two points.

The Suffolk/7News poll found that 17 percent of voters are still undecided, meaning that the landscape could shift significantly in the closing days of on-the-ground campaigning.

Christopher J. Girard can be reached at cgirard@globe.com.
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