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

MORE DIFFERENCES -- New Hampshire is different in other ways. In Iowa, 51 percent of likely caucus-goers say they attend church weekly; that drops to 28 percent of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire. Three-quarters in Iowa are conservatives, compared with 58 percent in New Hampshire. And 75 percent in Iowa say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases; in New Hampshire that dives to 44 percent.

Romney, moreover, leads in each of these groups: He has 37 percent support from weekly churchgoers in New Hampshire, 39 percent support from conservatives and 36 percent from abortion opponents. In the ABC/Post Iowa poll, by contrast, he slightly trailed Huckabee among frequent churchgoers, and only ran evenly with him in the other two groups.

The different sizes and preferences of these groups isn't necessarily about Iowa and New Hampshire overall, but specifically about the people who are likely to turn out for their Republican caucus or primary. The Iowa GOP caucus is an especially low-participation event; the ABC/Post poll there anticipated turnout by only 8 percent of the state's voting-age population. In New Hampshire, this poll anticipates turnout in the Republican primary by 27 percent of the population, about what it was in 2000.

New Hampshire is unusual for the large number of independents who vote in its primaries. They're helpful to Giuliani; he gets 21 percent support from independents, compared with 13 percent among Republicans. (Romney does 10 points better with mainline Republicans than with independents, but again leads in both groups.)

Giuliani also does better with women than with men, while Romney does better among men than women (though leads among both). Romney also tops out among older and better-educated likely voters. McCain's support, for his part, is fairly level across groups.

ISSUES -- Romney, as noted, also leads in trust to handle six of eight individual issues tested in this poll -- the economy, the federal deficit, health care, taxes, immigration, and social issues such as abortion and gay civil unions. McCain leads on Iraq, McCain and Giuliani alike on terrorism. Those are their main talking points in taking on Romney.

Romney also led in Iowa in trust to handle the economy, the deficit and immigration (health care and taxes weren't asked in that poll).

Among these -- again, as in Iowa -- there are no clear preferences as to importance. Rating the two most important issues in their vote, three in 10 cite the Iraq war and immigration, two in 10 cite health care, the economy or terrorism; and about one in 10 cite taxes, abortion or ethics in government.

Romney's been criticized for shifting some positions, and it does show up in his support profile. Among likely voters who say it's more important that they agree with a candidate now, even if he's changed positions in the past, Romney has 50 percent support. Among those who say it's more important that a candidate stay consistent on the issues, he gets a lower 31 percent. But it's a sign of his strength in New Hampshire that even in that latter group -- the much bigger one -- he still leads.

ATTRIBUTES -- On personal attributes, Romney benefits from familiarity -- his single biggest personal advantage is in having "campaigned hardest" in the state. He leads in six of eight attributes tested in this poll, with a closer call vs. McCain on experience and honesty/trustworthiness.

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