Santorum battles for third in New Hampshire, Romney lead erodes slightly
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Published: 07-Jan-2012

MANCHESTER, N.H. – After four consecutive days of gains, Rick Santorum has lost some momentum, and is now battling with Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman for third place, according to the latest two-day Suffolk University/7News tracking poll of likely voters in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary. 

Mitt Romney still holds a strong lead with 39 percent, though he has dropped slightly for three consecutive days and lost another point in the latest poll. Three days ago Romney stood at 43 percent of likely GOP voters.

Romney is followed by Ron Paul at 17 percent. Newt Gingrich moved up slightly (10 percent), and is followed closely by Santorum and Jon Huntsman, tied at 9 percent. Rick Perry had 1 percent and there are still 15 percent undecided.

“Rick Santorum’s streak of four straight improving poll days has ended,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “He is still in a close battle for the bronze medal with Gingrich and Huntsman with two debates scheduled in the next 24 hours.”

Santorum came under scrutiny at a campaign stop in Concord, N.H. earlier this week when he compared gay marriage to polygamy and admitted he did not know his medical marijuana laws very well. He was jeered for those answers by a predominately student audience. Overnight, his support dropped from 6 percent to 3 percent among undeclared (Independents) and also dropped from 9 percent to 2 percent among voters ages 18-34 years.

Paul has benefitted from the Santorum comments. Among Independents ages 18-44 years, Paul is now tied with Romney at 29 percent with a whopping 29 percent undecided in that category – nearly double the statewide number of undecided remaining.

Although Santorum is giving up support from young Independents, he is strengthening his support among older voters who are registered Republicans. Santorum now has 12 percent of older women (+ 5 points overnight) and 16 percent of older registered Republicans (+ 3 points overnight).

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