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Romney more than doubles any challenger in early New Hampshire poll

A new poll from the NH Journal has former Massachusets Gov. Mitt Romney dominating the field of possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates. Romney secured 39 percent support in the poll, with no other challenger even breaking the 20-percent mark.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gains the second highest percentage at 16, followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 10 percent. The rest of the potential candidates are even further behind, gaining only single-digit support: eight percent for Newt Gingrich, seven percent for Texas Rep. Ron Paul, four percent for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, three percent for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and one percent for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

The poll sampled both Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in the state. Unlike other early presidential state Iowa, where only registered Republicans can take part in the caucus, the New Hampshire primary is open to both those registered with the party and independents. That system could play an outsized role in the 2012 primary since there will (presumably) not be a competitive primary on the Democratic ballot, freeing the majority of independents to take part on the Republican side.

Romney finished second to Sen. John McCain in the 2008 New Hampshire primary, and he served as governor for a bordering state, so his first-place finish in the poll is not too surprising. Still, the gigantic margin between the former Massachusetts governor and any other candidate indicates that he starts the campaign as the heavy favorite to win the Granite State.

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