(CNN) - Hours before the Republican presidential candidates face off in their first debate in 19 days, new polls indicate that Mitt Romney's on top of the field in the race for the GOP nomination in the first two states to vote in the primary and caucus calendar.
According to NBC-Marist College surveys, the former Massachusetts governor holds a commanding lead in neighboring New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary, and holds a slim three point margin in Iowa, which votes first in the race for the White House.
The poll indicates that 44% of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire support Romney, who's making his second bid for the presidency, for their party's nominee. Romney has been the front-runner in just about every GOP primary poll in the Granite State over the past year.
Thirteen percent say they back former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain. It's the third straight New Hampshire survey over the past four days to indicate Cain is on the rise. Tied at 13% with Cain is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who's making his third bid for the White House.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the former front-runner in national polls who's numbers have been declining the past two weeks, is at 6%, with former Utah Gov. and U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 5%. Huntsman appears to be betting all his chips on a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary.
The poll indicates former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is at 4%, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota at 2% and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania as well as former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson each at 1%.
The major GOP candidates face off Tuesday night at a Bloomberg-Washington Post-WBIN-TV debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
In Iowa, the poll indicates Romney is at 23%, Cain at 20%, Paul at 11%, and Perry and Bachmann each at 10%. Bachmann, who's campaign experienced a temporary boost after winning a crucial straw poll in Iowa in mid-August, has been campaigning extensively through the Hawkeye state.
Gingrich is at 4%, Santorum 3% and Huntsman at 1% in Iowa. Romney's three point margin over Cain is within the poll's sampling error. The poll is the second straight survey in Iowa to indicate Romney at the top of the field.
The NBC-Marist Iowa poll was conducted Oct. 3-5, with 371 likely GOP caucus-goers questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.
The NBC-Marist New Hampshire poll was conducted Oct. 3-5, with 691 likely GOP primary voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.