Shocker: Romney leading in New Hampshire

Yes, this is a dog-bites-man story — as it pertains to the Republican primary.  If Mitt Romney can’t handily beat the field on January 10th in New Hampshire, then he won’t come close to winning the nomination.  But the bigger news is that Barack Obama’s stock has dropped dramatically in a state he won in 2008:

Obama trails Republican Mitt Romney among likely general election voters in the state by 10 percentage points in a hypothetical contest amid voter discontent with the president’s job performance and the economy, according to a Bloomberg News poll conducted Nov. 10-11. Obama carried New Hampshire by 54 percent to 45 percent in 2008.

Independent voters in the state, the site of the nation’s first presidential primary, have swung even more strongly against Obama. Romney would win independents there by 15 percentage points, the poll shows. …

Just 40 percent of the state’s residents and 37 percent of its political independents now say they approve of Obama’s performance in office, with 53 percent overall disapproving. By comparison, the president’s national job-approval rating was 43 percent for the week ended Nov. 13, according to a Gallup poll.

That’s a 19-poimt swing among registered voters in three years for Obama, a pretty steep drop regardless of what state it happens.  However, the sample in this case is relatively small but still respectable at 324 likely general-election voters.

Just as in Iowa, though, the bigger news may be who’s moving up rather than who’s on top:

Romney, 64, is the preferred choice of 40 percent of likely New Hampshire primary voters in a Bloomberg News poll conducted Nov. 10-12. Paul places second at 17 percent, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is at 11 percent. All the other candidates are below 10 percent.

Ron Paul also moved into a four-way tie in Iowa in a poll conducted by the same pollster last week.  Either this is a significant move upward for the Texas libertarian, or the pollster may be inadvertently building outliers for Paul.   We’ll see when other pollsters survey the Granite State.

For most of the other candidates, this isn’t consequential news.  They didn’t expect to compete in New Hampshire anyway, and so a low polling position at this late date won’t concern people like Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann.  However, one candidate does put great stock in his ability to win New Hampshire — and says “defeat is not an option“:

A defiant Jon Huntsman said yesterday that New Hampshire — where Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney continues to dominate even though Huntsman has focused all of his resources there — is a must-win for his underdog candidacy.

“Defeat is not an option,” said Huntsman, a former Utah governor, when asked whether a Granite State win was do or die for his campaign.

“We have to do well, and we will do well. … Doing well is winning New Hampshire,” he said.

The former U.S. ambassador to China has consistently polled at roughly 2 or 3 percent nationally, and is at about 6 percent in New Hampshire vs. Romney’s 40 percent, according to Real Clear Politics’ poll average.

In the Bloomberg poll, Huntsman does better … barely, at 7 points.  He comes in fifth, just one point behind Herman Cain.  In fact, one has to wonder why a former Utah governor would put all his chips on a Northeastern state known for its flinty independence and moderation, especially with something akin to a favorite son already so well established there.   If Huntsman needed a win anywhere, it should have been in Iowa, where his brand of center-right politics might have played better, or Nevada, where his proximity might make a difference for primary voters.  The only real benefit to this strategy for Huntsman is that he can get out early in the primaries.