Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman kisses 5-month-old Mallory Blais during… (Justin Sulliva / Getty Images )
Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah who has campaigned extensively in New Hampshire, has surged into third place among Republicans in the Granite State, according to the Suffolk University/WHDH-TV poll of likely voters that also shows Mitt Romney with a commanding lead.
As the former governor of next-door Massachusetts, Romney has opened up a 27-point lead over his nearest rival, according to the poll released on Thursday. Romney also has a home in New Hampshire, which will have the nation’s first presidential primary.
While Romney at 41% is expected to score big in New Hampshire, the order of the remaining GOP aspirants is far out of tune with national polls. For example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who leads Romney in most national polls, scored just 8%, well back in the pack.
Romney’s closest opposition in New Hampshire is Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian iconoclast, at 14% who has been creeping up in the national polls. Paul is followed by Huntsman at 10%. Huntsman has been badly trailing, down in single digits in most national polls.
Though a conservative, Huntsman faces problems in the Iowa caucus, expected to be dominated by Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. So New Hampshire, where he has been concentrating his campaigning , is key to his future political hopes.
“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.”
The statewide survey of 400 likely primary voters was conducted by telephone Sept. 18-20. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.