Do Republican officials need to fear the specter of some defiant third party bogeyman emerging to split the vote and keep President Obama in the White House? A new Rasmussen Reports survey reveals that a mere 6 percent of likely Republican primary voters nationwide would vote for a third party candidate if their preferred man "comes up short"; 8 percent would vote for Mr. Obama if that were the case.
Though the race ultimately could be close enough to warrant a recount and maybe a few hanging chads, 78 percent of Republicans still plan to vote for the GOP candidate "no matter what," says the poll of 1,000 voters conducted Wednesday.
Republican hopeful Jon Huntsman Jr. is eager to become the next "non-Romney candidate" with the timely bounce and momentum afforded to Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. Mr. Huntsman likely won't get the big power surge, but he's got incandescence.
There are endorsements from the Boston Globe, plus a spate of smaller New Hampshire papers, including the Concord Monitor, Eagle Times, Modnadnock Ledger-Transcript, Keene Sentinel and Valley News. Like the Globe, the publications cite Mr. Huntsman's diplomatic prowess, urging him to "seize the moment."
American Spectator contributor Aaron Goldstein declared that Mr. Huntsman's debate performance this weekend in Manchester and Concord to be "full of sobriety instead of snark." Human Events political correspondent Tony Lee noted that the candidate "may be moderate on some issues, but he's honest. He's not a phony."
Aw. It's enough for Huntsman's campaign to declare their guy the victor.
"He won Sunday's debate in Concord by distinguishing himself to voters in New Hampshire and around the nation that he is the leader who can unify the American people," says campaign manager Matt David. "The fundamental difference in this campaign is that Gov. Huntsman puts country first, and Mitt Romney puts politics first."
RU THE DAY
Amplify the titter factor and herd the polling precinct volunteers to one side, folks: drag queen and Logo TV host RuPaul has arrived in New Hampshire in time to add even more spectacle to a primary that Granite State Republicans would prefer to keep staid and historic. It's gone surreal for a few hours, anyway. RuPaul wants to assure voters he is "not throwing his wig in the ring," despite being mistaken for Republican presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul, he says.
"Contrary to recent reports, I did not come in third in the Iowa caucus. I am not even a member of the Republican Party. But I am a proud American," RuPaul exclaims. "I'm not a political person by nature. But any time a man leaves the house in a wig and a pair of cha-cha heels, he's making a political statement. Let us not forget that this great nation was founded by a bunch of men wearing wigs."
TAKE IT FOR GRANITE
Surprise. Though his support dropped by 8 percentage points in the last week, New Hampshire still belongs to Mitt Romney. He's got 35 percent of primary voter support, followed by Rep. Ron Paul at 20 percent, with 15 percent undecided.
Jon Huntsman Jr. drew 11 percent, followed by Newt Gingrich (9 percent) and Rick Santorum (8 percent). Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Buddy Roemer each drew 1 percent — all this according to a Suffolk University tracking poll of 500 likely primary voters conducted Friday and Saturday.
"It's a New Hampshire primary, it's January, and here we go again," says poll director David Paleologos. "Romney's strategy of running out the clock is costing him margin, Huntsman is still fighting hard and beginning to rally, and New Hampshire is playing contrarian to Rick Santorum, the Iowa Caucus star of a week ago, who has dropped to fifth place."
THE REAGAN CONSERVATIVE
Rick Santorum deserves the mantle of "Reagan conservative," says someone who worked as a policy adviser in the Reagan administration for eight years. Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer has endorsed Mr. Santorum in his White House quest.
"I believe Sen. Santorum best personifies the Reagan-inspired conservatism that unites the GOP," Mr. Bauer says.
"The main pillars of Sen. Santorum's governing philosophy — smaller, constitutionally based government, lower taxes, a strong and confident American role in the world to keep our nation safe, a commitment to defending America's families and defending the sanctity of life — is exactly the blueprint to put America back on the right track."
Well, what the heck. Buddy Roemer says he's in the presidential race for the duration, though he's never set foot on the presidential debate stage and languishes in the polls.
"If this causes me to be a thorn in the side of the Republican Party, so be it. This contest may well come down to a delegate fight, and I will request that all of my delegates who are acquired proportionally in New Hampshire, and all the other states in which we are on the ballot, not support any candidate for president who does not stand up to corruption with me," Mr. Roemer says.
"The race is wide open," he insists.
POLL DU JOUR
• 47 percent of Americans expect the economy to "stay the same."
• 29 percent say it will get worse, 23 percent say it will improve.
• 39 percent "don't expect to do anything different financially" in 2012.
• 38 percent will cut back on household spending, 24 percent will pay down their personal debt.
• 18 percent will save more, 12 percent will get rid of one or more credit cards.
• 9 percent will make home improvements, 5 percent will save more for retirement.
• 4 percent will make "less risky" investments, 2 percent will refinance their mortgage.
Source: A Harris poll of 2,237 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 5-12 and released Friday.
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