With the New Hampshire Presidential Primaries just five days away, Mitt Romney is within striking distance of John McCain in the Republican Primary while Hillary Clinton maintains her lead over the field in the Democratic Primary, according to a 7NEWS/Suffolk University poll released today.

In the Republican Primary, McCain (29 percent) led Romney (25 percent), while Mike Huckabee (12 percent) moved into third place, ahead of Rudy Giuliani (9 percent), Ron Paul (8 percent), Fred Thompson (2 percent), and Duncan Hunter (1 percent). Fourteen percent were undecided. Giuliani’s numbers have declined in seven consecutive polls, from a high of 37 percent in March 2007 to 9 percent as of Jan. 3, 2008.

Romney gained in all but three voter categories, where McCain maintained double-digit leads: McCain led Romney 32 percent-to-21 percent among independents; 41 percent-to-26 percent among voters over 65 years of age; and 37 percent-to-17 percent among voters in central New Hampshire, including Belknap, Merrimack, and Strafford counties.

“Romney is closing strong in New Hampshire pre-Iowa,” said Suffolk University Political Research Center Director David Paleologos. “But the war waged on the air by McCain and Romney could take its toll on both of them, with 42 percent of Republican voters saying they’re likely to change their minds next Tuesday.”

Clinton lead remains strong

In the Democratic Primary, the 7NEWS/Suffolk University poll shows that Clinton (39 percent) continues to lead Barack Obama (23 percent), John Edwards (17 percent), Bill Richardson (5 percent), Joe Biden (2 percent) and Dennis Kucinich (1 percent). Eleven percent were undecided.

Although the undecided number dropped considerably, no candidate received the lion’s share of that change; Clinton, Obama and Edwards all gained. Clinton led Obama 44 percent-to-19 percent among registered Democrats, 42 percent-to-22 percent among women, and 41 percent-to-21 percent among voters ages 65 or older.

“At age 60, Hillary Clinton is closing in on 40 (percent) in New Hampshire,” said Paleologos. “With Barack Obama and John Edwards viable, Clinton’s 40 percent may be good enough to win New Hampshire.”

Methodology

The poll released today is the third of a series of daily tracking polls conducted by 7NEWS/Suffolk University leading up to the Jan. 8 Primary. Each poll consists of 250 likely voters statewide each day from the Democratic and Republican Primaries. A two-day rolling average of 500 Democrats and 500 Republicans is reported every morning at 6:30 a.m. on “7NEWS Today in New England.” Suffolk University Adjunct Professor David Paleologos will be available all week from Manchester, N.H., to comment on the latest trends and demographics and to offer political analysis. He may be reached at 781-290-9310 or 646-228-4448.

The 7NEWS-Suffolk University tracking poll was conducted Jan. 1 and Jan. 2. The margin of error for each party subsample of 500 respondents is +/- 4.38 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The 1,000-respondent margin of error is +/- 3.10 percent. All respondents were likely voters for the respective New Hampshire Presidential Primaries on Jan. 8, 2008. Charts, marginals and 54 pages of cross-tabulation data will be posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site on Jan. 3, 2008.