POLL: No Huckaboom in N.H. as Romney Holds Tough

The forces pulling Mike Huckabee to the fore in Iowa are fizzling 1,300 miles to the east, where, in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney holds strong on issues and personal attributes -- and unthreatened by the religion issue he'll try to lay to rest in a speech tomorrow.

Romney, a Mormon, is being challenged in Iowa by Huckabee, a Baptist minister whose support has soared particularly in some core Republican groups there -- evangelical Christians, conservatives and strong abortion opponents. But each of those groups is less plentiful in the New Hampshire electorate, and far more supportive of Romney.

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It's not Huckabee but John McCain and Rudy Giuliani who come closest to Romney in this ABC News/Washington Post poll in New Hampshire, notably challenging him in trust to handle terrorism and the war in Iraq. Still, Romney, familiar as governor of neighboring Massachusetts, leads handily on other issues and most personal attributes.

All told, just more than a month before the Jan. 8 primary, 37 percent of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire support Romney, 20 percent McCain and 16 percent Giuliani. Huckabee trails with 9 percent support, about the same as Ron Paul's 8 percent. Fred Thompson has 4 percent.

Huckabee's New Hampshire support about matches his average (7 percent) in polls from 10 other organizations since October. No Iowa-style surge for the Arkansan here.

CHANGE -- Naturally, things can change. Polls measure current preferences rather than predicting final outcomes. And -- as in Iowa -- an unusually large number of Republican likely voters in New Hampshire, 61 percent, say they still may change their minds. Half of those, indeed, say there's a "good chance" of it.

It follows that enthusiasm for the candidates is not especially strong; only about a third describe themselves as "very enthusiastic" about their current preference -- again, matching sentiment among Republicans in Iowa.

Iowa itself might be a wildcard. Three in 10 likely voters in New Hampshire say the outcome of the Iowa caucuses might play some role in their own ultimate decision. Most of those voters say they'll give it "just some" weight, not a more substantial amount. But with the potential for changeability in the air, and the caucuses occurring just five days before the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary, it could matter.

RELIGION -- Romney's decision to address his religion follows an ABC/Post poll two weeks ago that found him trailing among evangelicals in Iowa by 2-1. In a national ABC/Post poll last summer, moreover, 30 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they'd be less likely to support a Mormon candidate.

In New Hampshire, though, it's much less of an issue. Just 9 percent of Republican likely voters say they're less inclined to support Romney because of his religion; 88 percent say it doesn't make a difference to them. And, while the sample is small, Romney runs well among evangelicals in the state.

Huckabee's support from evangelicals in New Hampshire is far less than it is in Iowa. And there are far fewer of them: Evangelicals account for 37 percent of likely caucus-goers in Iowa, but just 15 percent of likely voters in the New Hampshire Republican primary.

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