New Hampshire already on radar of 2012 hopefuls

November 8, 2010

By Holly Ramer-Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. | There’s no rest for the politically weary in New Hampshire.

Some states were still counting ballots from Tuesday’s midterm election when the first potential presidential candidate arrived in New Hampshire, which will hold the nation’s earliest presidential primary about 15 months from now. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum spoke Thursday at “Politics and Eggs,” a “must-do” breakfast forum for all White House hopefuls.

New England College political-science professor Wayne Lesperance described the audience like this:

“We all had bags under our eyes, we were all exhausted, yet there we were, listening to him,” he said. “We’re in New Hampshire, this is what we do.”

With campaign signs from midterm elections still littering the roadways, potential candidates and political junkies are looking to 2012. Voters also are starting to form opinions about the assortment of Republicans who’ve expressed interest in denying President Obama a second term.

Asked to choose among four potential candidates, about four in 10 Republicans said they want former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to win the 2012 primary, according to exit polls conducted Tuesday for the Associated Press. About a fifth of the Republicans favored former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, putting her about even with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and slightly ahead of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Romney remained the top choice among independents, who outnumber either Republicans or Democrats and can vote in either primary, though more independent voters said they want “someone else” other than the four named Republicans to win.

Voters also were asked about Mr. Romney and Mrs. Palin specifically. About three-quarters of Republicans said they had favorable opinions of both Mr. Romney and Mrs. Palin, and about a quarter had unfavorable opinions. Independents were split in their view of Mr. Romney, while most had an unfavorable opinion of Mrs. Palin.

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