New Hampshire Endgame: Romney How Big, Who is 2, 3, 4?

The last day of New Hampshire polling raises questions about how large Mitt Romney’s lead may be, and which candidates finish 2, 3 and 4.

The final Suffolk tracking poll has Romney sliding to 33%. Suffolk’s track for Romney since 12/31 has been 41, 43, 43, 43, 41, 40, 39, 35, 33. That 10 point drop over 5 days is a remarkable change. For comparison, over the same 5 days, the Suffolk tracker has a 4 point rise for Santorum, from 6 to 10, and Huntsman 6 points, from 7 to 13. The other big mover is Paul, from 14 to 20.

If we look at all the polls, the Romney decline looks less dramatic but detectible. The Fortnight Review above sees Romney still near 39% in the standard trend estimate. The more sensitive red estimator, or the blue trend based only on the last two weeks of polling, see Romney sinking to 36-37, being pulled down by the last two days of the Suffolk track.

Sunday night’s PPP poll also sees Romney at 35, but the WMUR/UNH puts him back up at 41. So the balance of the evidence is more mid-to-upper 30s than low 40s, but the variation across polls leaves some room for doubt. Also the trend is especially interesting. If the dramatic drop in Suffolk continues for two more days we would be looking at 30-31%, a disappointing finish even if good enough for first place. (Would two narrow wins continue the momentum?)

Then we get to the 2, 3, 4 places. Ron Paul seems to have a solid lead here for 2nd place. While he’s fluctuated a bit between 15 and 20%, all three trend estimates agree on 18-19%, with very little trend. The supposed surge candidates are a bit more puzzling. Santorum has certainly gained from his pre-Iowa levels below 5%, but seems to have stalled out in the 10% range. A couple of polls threatened 15%, but recently everything has been 10 +/- 2. All the trends see 11%, maybe 12. But not the larger surges he has seen nationally or in South Carolina. While his standard trend estimate puts him in 3rd place, the more sensitive estimates don’t think her will get past 4th.

John Huntsman had seen little movement for most of the fortnight, but the last few days have hinted at a surge. While the standard trend puts him at just 11.3, the sensitive and fortnight trends see 13-14, good enough for 3rd place, though still not ready to challenge Paul.

Newt Gingrich has shown no signs of resurgence. His support in New Hampshire, and nationally, has continued to decline, now to 8-10%. The sensitive estimates suggest he could end up in the three way tie with Santorum and Huntsman if a late shift goes exclusively to Gingrich.

Rick Perry is consistent. One percent.

Here is the long-term picture in New Hampshire. Remember the long-term makes trends over the last two weeks look a lot sharper than we see in the Fortnight Review above.