(CNN) – Three weeks before the first Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney remains the front-runner in the battle for the state that holds the first primary in the road to the White House, according to a new poll of Granite State voters.
Full results (pdf)
But a CNN/WMUR survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire also indicates that the race is far from settled, with nearly nine in ten potential Republican primary voters saying they haven't come close to making up their minds and more than four in ten saying they're not satisfied with the field of GOP candidates running for president.
Listen to CNN Radio's Bob Costantini and CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser discuss the poll results:
According to the poll, which was released Monday, one-third of those questioned say they would vote for Romney if there election were held today, far outpacing any other candidate or potential candidate. The former governor from neighboring Massachusetts and 2008 Republican White House hopeful has formed a presidential exploratory committee and is expected to formally announce his second bid for the White House.
"The shifting nature of the Republican field and a perception that the 'perfect candidate' candidate has not appeared, has led many New Hampshire Republicans to support the best known candidate, Mitt Romney," said Andrew Smith, Director of the UNH Survey Center. "Romney has been the clear favorite among New Hampshire Republicans for more than two years and no other candidate has persuaded voters to move away from Romney."
Romney's large lead in the new CNN/WMUR poll as well as other GOP horserace surveys of Granite State voters shouldn't be any surprise. Romney is well known in the Granite state. Massachusetts media dominates in the heavily populated southern part of New Hampshire. Romney campaigned heavily in the state in the 2008 primary, and he has a summer home in the state's lakes region. A win in New Hampshire would be important for Romney's hunt for the nomination. He finished second in the state in the 2008 primary to Sen. John McCain, who went on to win the nomination.
The poll indicates that a desire by New Hampshire Republicans to pick a someone who can beat President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election may be behind his poll numbers.
"Republicans are looking for someone who can take on President Obama, and right now, Romney is seen as the only Republican who can do that," adds Smith.
"Romney also appears to benefit from the perception that he is a strong leader and has the right experience to be President," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "He also gets relatively high marks on the economy and the budget deficit, and despite criticism of the health care policy Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts, he has a solid lead over his GOP rivals on that issue as well."
No other candidate is currently in double digits. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who ran as a libertarian candidate in 1988 and as a Republican White House hopeful in 2008, comes in at nine percent, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at seven percent, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at six percent apiece. While Paul, Pawlenty and Gingrich are all declared candidates, Giuliani has not taken any concrete steps towards making another bid for the GOP nomination, although he hasn't ruled out a run.
According to the poll, five percent back former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee also has not ruled out a bid for the White House, but hasn't taken any serious step towards running.
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain, and former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, who recently stepped down as U.S. ambassador to China, are all tied at four percent. Cain has officially declared his candidacy, while Bachmann and Huntsman are expected to announce their intentions soon.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania comes in at two percent in the poll. Santorum is also expected to formally declare his candidacy soon.
Although the poll indicates Romney far ahead of the rest of the field in New Hampshire, Holland warns against thinking Romney's a shoo-in.
"Only 13 percent of potential GOP primary voters in that state say they have definitely decided who to vote for or are leaning toward someone. And 43 percent wish that someone else would get in the race, with less than one in ten very satisfied with the current field," adds Holland. "The race is likely to take some funny twists and turns between now and primary day."
The interviews for this poll started last Wednesday, when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was still considered a potential GOP candidate and his name was included in the list of Republican hopefuls read to respondents. Daniels did not announce his decision to forego a bid for the White House until Sunday, after nearly all the interviews had been conducted.
How can the University of New Hampshire report results that exclude Daniels?
"The questionnaire also asked respondents for their second choice. As a result, UNH can take those respondents who said Daniels was their first choice and allocate them to the person who was their second-favorite candidate, "says Holland. "That allows us to present a more accurate reflection of the state of the race now that Daniels is out of the running."
The poll also indicates that New Hampshire Democrats are solidly behind President Obama as their 2012 candidate.
"When asked if they would vote for President Obama or another Democratic candidate, 73 percent of likely Democratic primary voters said they will vote for Obama, only 6 percent said they would vote for another Democrat, and 21 percent are unsure," says Smith. "The percentage of Democrats who say they will vote for Obama is at its highest point, and indication that there is little support for a Democratic challenge."
The CNN/WMUR poll was conducted May 18-22, 347 New Hampshire residents who say they will vote in the Republican primary and 289 New Hampshire residents who say they will vote in the Democratic primary interviewed by telephone by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
The poll's sampling error for likely GOP primary voters is plus or minus five percentage points.
CNN, WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader are teaming up on June 13 to host the state's first GOP presidential primary debate of the 2012 election cycle.
Romney is a BIG phony. He realizes that people don't warm to him, so he decides to never wear a tie anymore. It will take more than no tie for him to ever win.
What have you done for me lately could be asked to any of these Republican candidates, and the only answer they could give is that they have hated the President. None of the candidates have proven that they have any policy ideas and Mitts will never get past ROBAMA Care, he owns but runs from it like a little baby. The 5% that would chose Palin obviously want America to fail.
Romney DID NOT stay in Massachusetts to try to be elected for a second term. Does anyone wonder why? And does anyone wonder why a DEMOCRAT replaced him? This is a very simple question with a very simple answer.
But, but, but, he's not a CRISTIAN!
Yes, Romney is probably the GOP's best candidate BUT that doesn't say a whole lot. And I am still amazed at how people keep thinking Obama is such a failure at the economy when the evidence overwhelmingly that the economy is improving everyday. Jobs are coming back, virtually every economic indicators shows consistent growth and recovery. This has nothing to do with the 2010 election because the GOP has passed nothing related to the economy or job creation. This is pretty clear that the economy is improving BECAUSE of Obama's and the Democrats' policies.
And for anyone who thinks it should not be taking this long let me let you in on something...The last recession, of 2000, it took 32 months (2 years and 8 months) to reach pre-recession numbersand that one was no where near as deep as the Great Recession. So try and put that into perspective when you want to criticize the administration for the slow recovery.
He will never win !
All four of his sons wouldn't volunteer for military service.
How can one send others into battle , yet not your own .
Commander and chief " Mitt" , no thanks !
The GOP is destroying itself from within and they are just too fueled with ignorance and stupidity in their choices to even know it. You have handed Mr. Obama the Presidency and all clear thinking intelligent people thank you for it. Good job banjo country.
i don't care if he is a front runner, he still isn't going to win. My vote is for Obama.
FACT: Far-Right religious, will not...... repeat......... will not.......... vote for a Mormon.
Democrats seem much more worried about Romney's religion than Republicans do.
I think they are just worried about Romney who has a very good shot at winning next year's Presidential election. He can beat Obama, but so can several other possible Republican candidates. The only question left is who wins the Republican nomination.
"more than four in ten saying they're not satisfied with the field of GOP candidates running for president"
You have every GOP whacko and fruitcake running now, and yet you still want a "ringmaster" for this circus?
Good luck with that.
This voter is settled. Obama all the way. If he keeps going like he is we will need to send some black onyx to Mount Rushmore.
The GOP's problem is that anyone with two brains cells to rub together knows that they will have to bow to the altar of the Tea Party to get nominated and once they do that rank and file GOPers will have to run toward the Tea Party or run from it. Those running away (like Scott Brown) might get re- elected those who run toward the Tea Party will make every Democrat running against them (except Denis Kusinich) look like they are middle of the road.
13% of Republican voters in a state as tiny as New Hampshire ain't saying much about Mitt (the professional candidate) Romney as any kind of valid threat to Obama!..........And yes, I live there!
Anybody better than Obama-Osama. Last time i vote for Obama and what? Nothing. Gas $4.00.,no jobs, 14trl.deficit . and just bla-bkla,-bla.
Romney will be the nominee and is the only candidate from this cast of characters who has any chance at all of defeating President Obama.
Romney will be great as President because he will implement UNIVERSAL health care for America, getting his fellow Republicans to suck it up to his rename and repackaged health care (but still same old same old as that in MA).
No matter how much they know that businesses require MA style health care to survive, and that they need to support small and medium businesses, Republicans will not admit it but want to be willingly duped into agreeing to it by another fellow Republican.
And the Circus go on. But wait all the Clown have not make up there mind yet. Of there two of them don't have a mind, a one that has his mind make up Is a crook and a cheat.