Jon Huntsman is having a mini-surge in New Hampshire, at the expense of Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. While a week ago Paul was routinely breaking the 20% barrier in the polls, he is now down to about 17-18%, a small decline, but when replicated across a number of different polls likely to reflect a real change. If you dig into the last PPP poll’s cross-tabs, you’ll find that Huntsman and Paul are fishing from the same pool to some degree. Paul is the second preference of only 8% of GOP voters, but is the second preference of 15% of Huntsman voters, more than any other candidate’s supporters except the marginal Rick Perry and Buddy Roemer. Likewise, Huntsman is the second preference of 13% of GOP voters, but 15% of Paul supporters (Romney is the only better-liked candidate from Paul’s supporters, with 20%).
In general, I would not expect Paul to do as well in New Hampshire as he did in Iowa, even though the libertarianish percentage of the electorate is much higher in New Hampshire than in Iowa. The two reasons for that are that New Hampshire has a primary rather than a caucus, and Paul’s support is far, far higher in caucuses, where candidates with highly motivated voters outperform, and that Huntsman was a total nonentity in Iowa. Were it not for the Huntsman surge, I would have forecast Paul at over 20% in New Hampshire; now I suspect 18% is the best forecast. I would be very surprised to see him fall below 16%.
What to watch for in the returns… I would see whether Paul is outperforming Huntsman in areas where he should do well and that have a lot of votes, like Hillsborough and Rockingham counties. In towns like Derry (Rockingham), Franklin (Merrimack), Claremont (Sullivan), Hudson (Hillsborough), Littleton (Grafton), Moultonborough (Carroll), and Belmont (Belknap), you would need to see Paul consistently hitting at or above 20% for him to have a good prospect of clearing 20% statewide. These were more or less average towns for him in 2008.