WASHINGTON—Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads the Republican presidential field by double digits in New Hampshire, the site of the nation's first primary, according to polls conducted since the state's first debates last week and made available to McClatchy Newspapers and NBC News.
The poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research found that Romney had the support of 27 percent of likely primary voters. Sen. John McCain of Arizona had 16 percent, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had 15 percent and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson had 12 percent.
Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York had 26 percent, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois had 21 percent, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had 18 percent and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico had 9 percent.
Both poll leaders—Romney and Clinton—still haven't won the support of even a third of New Hampshire's likely voters. About 1 in 5 people in each party remain undecided: 22 percent of likely Republican voters and 16 percent of likely Democratic voters.
"Romney has an advantage for now," said Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire. "But it's hard to say there's a front-runner in either party in New Hampshire."
Scala said he wasn't surprised to see Romney leading—he's led in several New Hampshire polls—but that he was surprised to see that McCain and Giuliani were as far behind him as the poll found. He said that suggested problems for the two, especially since they were only a few percentage points ahead of Thompson, who hasn't entered the race, campaigned or participated in the debates.
Romney has benefited from well-received performances in several early debates, a good political organization in the state and television ads aired there.
One notable move among the so-called second tier of candidates: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had 5 percent after registering at about 1 percent or lower in most other polls of the pivotal state. Scala said Huckabee, a Republican, benefited from a good debate performance.
All the other Republican candidates had 1 percent or less.
On the Democratic side, the poll showed a close contest that could go to any of several candidates.
Among the second tier, Scala said, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden appeared to be the only one who got a bounce out of the debate despite getting much less airtime in a CNN debate format that gave the most attention to candidates who lead in the polls. Scala called Biden's 6 percent the highest he's seen so far for the senator in the campaign.
After Biden, 2 percent of voters volunteered that they'd support former Vice President Al Gore. The other candidates had 1 percent or less.
Mason-Dixon Polling and Research conducted the polls Monday through Thursday, surveying 411 likely voters in the Democratic primary and 361 likely voters in the Republican primary. The Democratic results had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. The Republican results had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.