Newt Gingrich Closing On Romney In New Hampshire, Poll Shows

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's gargantuan lead over the Republican primary field in his strongest state, New Hampshire, has vanished in the blink of an eye, according to one new poll of Granite State voters released Friday.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is in a statistical dead-heat with Mitt Romney in the latest Magellan Strategies poll, receiving 27 percent support compared to Romney's 29 percent. Only a month ago, Gingrich was at 6 percent, and Romney was at 40 percent in the group's last survey.

There are, of course, some reasons to be cautious about the results, primarily because it is such an outlier from other poll findings. Romney has consistently polled around 40 percent, and in a Bloomberg poll of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire conducted a week ago, Romney received 40 percent, with Gingrich at 11 percent.

In addition, Magellan relies on robo-calls, which cannot contact voters on cellphones.

But it is still an indicator that Gingrich's political resurrection is catching on and propelling him forward as a possible challenger to Romney.

In the October poll by Magellan, former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman pulled in 20 percent. Since then, however, he has been accused of sexual harassment by a handful of women, and in the latest poll his support had dropped to 10 percent.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) also shot up in this latest poll, from 10 percent last month to 16 percent now. That mirrors the rise in his numbers in Iowa, which goes first in the primary process, where two polls have showed Paul at 19 percent. The Bloomberg poll this week had Paul at 17 percent.

New Hampshire is key for Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who owns a summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee and has spent a lot of time in the Granite State over the last few years. It is the cornerstone of his strategy to win the nomination, and is intended to be a springboard for him to build momentum going into the South Carolina and Florida primaries.

Michael Dennehy, a Concord-based Republican consultant who is unaffiliated in the primary, said that the Magellan poll "says less about Mitt Romney and more about New Hampshire voters wanting a contest with another credible contender, and that candidate today is Newt Gingrich."

"Rarely, if ever, has the New Hampshire primary been a runaway, so this was to be expected. But for Newt to sustain these numbers he has a lot of work to do," Dennehy told The Huffington Post. "Romney is the strongest on the ground and has developed intimate relationships where Newt has not. This is indeed an important snapshot but by no means indicates that Romney is struggling. He is still very positive."

If the Magellan poll is accurate, the point appears to be that New Hampshire voters want Romney to earn their vote.