Among likely primary voters in the Granite State, 44 percent of those polled said they would vote for Romney, an NBC News/Marist Poll released Tuesday said.
Former Godfather's Pizza Chief Executive Herman Cain and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas each received 13 percent of the vote, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (6 percent), former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (5 percent), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (4 percent) and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota (2 percent). Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson each received 1 percent of the vote, with 11 percent undecided.
"It's a fluid contest and there's still a long way to go, but Mitt Romney is enjoying somewhat of a home field advantage in neighboring New Hampshire," said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "It will take a major change to dislodge him from the top position in this first-in-the-nation primary."
Among general election voters in New Hampshire, 38 percent approved of the job President Obama is doing, and nearly three-quarters said the country is moving in the wrong direction.
In the other closely watched early primary state of Iowa, Romney and Cain were neck-and-neck among the state's likely GOP caucus voters, with 23 percent and 20 percent of the vote, respectively.
Paul (11 percent), Perry (10 percent) and Bachmann (10 percent) were the other contenders to garner double-digits in Iowa, Marist said.
"Right now, Iowa is shaping up as a two candidate contest. But, caucus participation is always the key in this low-turnout environment," Lee said. "Watch for the strength of the candidates' field organizations to move poll numbers and determine the eventual winner."
Registered voters in Iowa indicated Romney would pose the strongest challenge to Obama, while the president would have an easier time gaining a second term if Perry were the GOP nominee.
A separate poll in of 600 New Hampshire residents by the Every Child Matters Education Fund indicated voters are concerned about child well-being; 87 percent of likely voters and 77 percent of GOP primary voters said they want the candidates to address child health and education.
"This poll shows that New Hampshire voters of all persuasions are concerned about the well-being of children, do not know where the GOP presidential candidates stand on children's issues, want them to talk more about children, don't want cuts in children's services, and by large margins support an increase in taxes to protect children's programs," ECMEF President Michael Petit said.
Marist did not provide sample size or error margin data for its polls.
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