MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appears set to win the nation’s first 2012 primary vote in New Hampshire next week by a wide margin, according to two surveys released on Monday.
Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts who has a vacation estate in New Hampshire, has 43 percent support among likely primary voters in a 7 News/Suffolk University daily tracking poll, and 41 percent in a survey by the polling firm Magellan Strategies.
He has a double-digit lead over his nearest rival Texas congressman Ron Paul, who polled at 21 percent in the Magellan Strategies survey and 17 percent in the 7 News/Suffolk University survey.
A large proportion of Romney supporters now say they are unlikely to change their minds, said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center.
“Voters are becoming energized by a Romney candidacy, which is something that the campaign has lacked over the past year,” he said. “Romney is closing the deal.”
The picture in New Hampshire ahead of the January 10 primary is a contrast to the Iowa race, where polls show a three-way fight between Romney, Paul and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania going into the caucuses on Tuesday.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who shunned Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses to focus solely on New Hampshire, has moved into third place in the 7 News/Suffolk University poll with 9 percent in calls made December 31 and January 1.
That puts Huntsman ahead of former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich at 8 percent.
“New Hampshire voters are losing confidence in Gingrich, similar to recent Iowa trends, which may result in an early state one-two punch that knocks Newt out of the presidential race,” said Paleologos.
Huntsman and Gingrich were tied at 12 percent in the Magellan survey, which was taken December 27-28 with input from 648 likely voters.
Support among New Hampshire voters for Santorum, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann is in the low single digits in both polls.
The 7 News/Suffolk University poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points and the Magellan Strategies poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.85 percentage points.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by Eric Beech