Thursday, April 5, 2007

Mitt Romney has nearly doubled his support in New Hampshire, jumping from third to a first-place tie with Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the critical 2008 presidential primary state, a Zogby International poll says.

Mr. Romney’s showing caps a strong week for the former Massachusetts governor, who outpaced his Republican rivals in the race for campaign cash but stumbled when exaggerating his hunting prowess.

The Zogby poll released yesterday has Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney tied at 25 percent, six percentage points ahead of former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

“These poll numbers, together with the small increase in Iowa and a huge fundraising effort, puts him into the top tier and makes him a major player in the race for the GOP nomination,” said pollster John Zogby.

Mr. Romney’s rise in New Hampshire has not been reflected in national polls. He remains in single digits, often in fourth or fifth place behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, neither of whom has announced a presidential bid.

Mr. Thompson received 6 percent in Zogby’s New Hampshire poll. Mr. Gingrich was not included in the sample.

“I think a lot of people are taking a second look. His message has resonated. The more voters he gets to meet, the better he does,” said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.

A Jan. 19 Zogby poll showed Mr. Romney in a distant third place with 13 percent in New Hampshire. Mr. McCain and Mr. Giuliani had 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively, about the same support as in yesterday’s poll.

“He’s probably running the most traditional campaign in New Hampshire,” said state Republican Party Chairman Fergus Cullen. “He’s doing community events, meeting with voters on a one-on-one basis.”

Mr. Cullen noted that the McCain campaign has been active at community events as well, while the Giuliani campaign has made only two official state visits since his campaign began.

The positive Zogby numbers couldn’t have come at a better time for Mr. Romney, who Wednesday acknowledged that he has spent more than half of his $23 million first-quarter fundraising total. He also had to concede that the lifelong hunting career he has touted on the stump comprises two trips.

The new Romney ad, “I like vetoes,” centers on Mr. Romney’s large tally of gubernatorial vetoes of bills passed by his state’s Democratic legislature. The ad, which is running in Iowa and New Hampshire, can be seen as both endorsing balanced budgets while taking a subtle swipe at President Bush’s reluctance to veto large spending bills.

The Democratic National Committee went after the Romney spot in a release, calling it “a weak attempt to deflect attention from his tax-raising record as governor of Massachusetts.”

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