The surprise early frontrunner in New Hampshire’s next GOP presidential primary is the loser of the last White House race – former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who wipes the 2016 field by a more than 2-1 margin, a new Suffolk University-Boston Herald poll reveals.
The poll of 800 likely Granite State voters has less encouraging news for another ex-Massachusetts politician, former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown. He trails incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen by 10 points and is now viewed unfavorably by 46 percent of New Hampshire voters.
But the biggest loser in the Suffolk-Herald poll is President Obama, whose approval rating has tumbled to an all-time low in New Hampshire. Just 39 percent of Granite State voters give a thumbs up to Obama’s job performance, while 52 percent disapprove, according to the poll.
Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee who has stirred speculation about another White House run, gets the backing of 24 percent of likely GOP primary voters in a test matchup in New Hampshire. None of the possible Republican contenders even cracks double digits with Romney in the mix, according to the Suffolk-Herald poll.
Romney’s closest competitor is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who manages just 9 percent, the poll shows.
Without Romney in the field, the GOP presidential contest in the first-in-the-nation primary state looks murky. Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are tied at the top with just 11 percent support among 419 likely primary voters. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are next with 8 percent of the vote.
Nearly one-third of Republican voters are undecided, showing Granite State voters are doing what they usually do in a presidential primary — waiting until they get a measure of the candidates up close.
But New Hampshire voters are not wavering much about who they support in this year’s statewide races, especially the highly anticipated Shaheen-Brown bout.
Just 9 percent of voters say they’re undecided in the U.S. Senate race, and Shaheen holds a 49-39 percent lead over Brown, according to the poll. Those numbers are similar to the last Suffolk-Herald poll on March 6, when Shaheen led Brown by a 52-39 percent margin.
Brown is still comfortably ahead in his GOP primary contest, holding a 40-12 percent lead over his closest rival, former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith.
The poll also shows New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan holding a wide lead over her potential GOP rivals.
The Suffolk-Herald poll of 800 likely voters, including Republicans, Democrats and independents, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The sample of 419 likely GOP primary voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percent.
The results of the Romney test matchup includes 281 likely GOP voters who said they had a first choice in the potential 2016 field.