Nov 22, 2015 12:26 AM

Steinhauser: Trump remains on top in new NH poll, but Romney would dominate field if he ran; terrorism top issue on voters' minds

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD – Donald Trump remains the clear front runner in New Hampshire for the Republican presidential nomination, but a new poll suggests that if Mitt Romney changed his mind and decided to run for the White House again, he’d have a two to one lead over Trump.

And a new survey from Suffolk University and the Boston Globe also indicates that in the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, terrorism is by far the most important issue on the minds of likely Republican primary voters in the Granite State.

According to the poll, which was released Saturday, Trump stands at 22% support in the first-in-the-nation primary, with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 11%, famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 10%, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich each at 9% and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 8%.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina are tied at 4%, with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 3%. The remaining candidates in the 14-person GOP field are at one percent or less, with 18% undecided with less than three months to go until the Feb. 9th primary.

“Donald Trump’s loyal 22 percent goes a long way in New Hampshire,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “As long as the remaining 78 percent is split relatively evenly among the six or seven major contenders, we’re getting close to ‘Trump-mate’ in the Granite State.”

The Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll is the third straight public opinion survey in New Hampshire conducted entirely after the fourth Republican presidential debate and after the Paris attacks to find Rubio in second place, following Fox News and WBUR polls. Rubio had the best favorable rating in the Suffolk University/Boston Globe survey (64%-22% favorable-unfavorable).

“The Rubio thread runs deep throughout the poll. If you look at who is in the top three when it comes to favorability, first choice, second choice, trust, or best chance of winning in the general election, Rubio is the only candidate who meets all of those tests,” Paleologos added.

With Trump remaining the front runner, some in the Republican establishment and donor class have pined for a third White House campaign from Romney. But the 2012 GOP presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor has resisted such calls since announcing in late January that he would not make another bid for president.

When those questioned in the poll were asked if they would switch their first-choice commitments to Romney if he were added to the list of candidates, three-in-ten indicated they would switch, which would be enough for Romney (at 31%) to dominated the field of existing GOP presidential contenders.

While terrorism/national security has been a key issue in the 2016 race for the White House, it has dominated discussion on the campaign trail since the attacks in Paris over a week ago. According to the poll 42% of likely New Hampshire GOP primary voters said it was their top issue, followed by jobs and the economy at 18% and illegal immigration at 12%.

The Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll was conducted Nov. 17-19, with 500 likely Republican primary voters in the Granite State questioned by telephone. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

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