One day until New Hampshire votes, Ron Paul fights for the lead

Ron Paul (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images / AFP)
A momentary surge in his campaign allowed Rick Santorum to seep into the cracks of the top tier and disrupt the race for the Republican Party nomination earlier this month in Iowa.

With all eyes now on New Hampshire, Texas Congressman Ron Paul is turning up the heat as he tries to take down the competition and offer the GOP only one alternative to Mitt Romney this season.

The Iowa caucus earlier this month saw former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Santorum squabble for first place, leaving Rep. Ron Paul to trail the two with a close third-place finish. Across the country in New Hampshire, however, Santorum’s success among Republican voters is already slipping as his magic wanes and Ron Paul seems to be the likely second place victor in the state’s primary scheduled for this Tuesday.

While a Mitt Romney win looks almost certain, a strong finish in New Hampshire for either Santorum or Paul will manage to safeguard a spot in the top-tier for either candidate as Election Day grows closer and closer. Following the fall-out of Michele Bachmann after unsuccessful scoring in Iowa, poor performance out east this week could easily end the runs of any of the other GOP contenders next. With New Hampshire coming as the first big event following the congresswoman’s concession from the race, conservatives will be forced to look elsewhere in the state this week as they consider the smallest group of candidates for the first time during Tuesday’s primary.

Following two debates in New Hampshire over the weekend, likely Republican Party voters are already looking elsewhere, with the latest polls putting Santorum towards the back of the pack only days after a successful showing in Iowa. The results of a survey published Sunday by Suffolk University reveals that voters in the state of New Hampshire have already at large withdrew their support of Santorum, with a pool of 500 people questioned on the race putting the former Pennsylvania senator in fifth place. According to the latest Suffolk poll, Romney still secures the lead with 35 percent of the vote, although Ron Paul continues to narrow in on the gap with a predicted second place finish with 20 percent. Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich trail in third and fourth place, respectively, and Santorum currently stands in fifth place with only 8 percent of the vote.

The poll results published Sunday by Suffolk University corroborate on a survey finished just shortly before Saturday’s New Hampshire debate, the first of two this weekend. Suffolk’s previous poll, conducted on January 5 and 6, had showed similar standing, but a day later things only look worse for Santorum as Rep. Paul puts the pressure on Romney and the other Republican contenders.

Between the results released Saturday and those published on Sunday, Romney dropped 4 percentage points overnight. It also marked the fourth consecutive day of diminished support for the frontrunner.

“Romney’s strategy of running out the clock is costing him margin, Huntsman is still fighting hard and beginning to rally, and New Hampshire is playing contrarian to Rick Santorum, the Iowa Caucus star of a week ago, who has dropped to fifth place,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston, writes in a statement.

A day earlier, Peleologos acknowledged that Santorum’s surge to the top had already reached its peak and the summit doesn’t look like it will be the GOP’s nod lest the candidate works overtime to once again secure support. Before the debates, Pelologos said, “Rick Santorum’s streak of four straight improving poll days has ended,” adding, “He is still in a close battle for the bronze medal with Gingrich and Huntsman with two debates scheduled in the next 24 hours.”

On the other hand, Ron Paul continues to snag support in New Hampshire, where he gained 3 percentage points between Saturday and Sunday. The congressman had earlier discounted a strong polling in the coming primary for Santorum, telling fans in Iowa that “there are only two candidates in this race that have the resources to compete as we head into New Hampshire,” referring to himself and Romney. During Saturday’s debate, Romney walked away largely unscathed, but the same couldn’t be said for Santorum. The senator from Pennsylvania was largely lobbed at with attacks from Paul, including allegations that he is a “big-government, big spending individual,” who, unlike the congressman, has time and time again voted for moves to drive the federal deficit into an even deeper hole.

Republican voters in New Hampshire will voice their support for the candidate of their choosing during a state-wide primary on Tuesday. Later this month the people of South Carolina will have the chance to do their same in the state’s own GOP contest.