On the heels of an Iowa caucus win, Sen. Barack Obama is within striking distance of Hillary Clinton with just three days to go until New Hampshire voters go to the polls, according to a new 7NEWS/Suffolk University tracking poll released this morning.

In the Democratic Primary, Clinton (36 percent) leads Obama (29 percent), John Edwards (13 percent), Bill Richardson (4 percent), Joe Biden (1 percent), Dennis Kucinich (1 percent) and Mike Gravel (1 percent). Twelve percent were undecided.

Iowa boost for Obama

“Coming into New Hampshire, Barack Obama has the cool wind from his Iowa win at his back,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “He’s climbed four points overnight; Hillary Clinton has dropped one; and O-mentum is in the air.”

On a Jan. 3 7NEWS (WHDH-TV) broadcast, Paleologos said that three events must occur for Obama to catch Clinton: Win Iowa; mobilize young and new voters on election day; and capitalize on a John Edwards collapse in New Hampshire in the final days. Two of these scenarios have come to pass. The third is an open question: Can Edwards maintain his current level of support?

Obama’s gains were most dramatic among young voters in New Hampshire who may have been energized by the Iowa win. Among likely voters ages 18-35, Obama led Clinton 44 percent-to-31 percent, compared to the previous tracking, where he trailed Clinton 35 percent-to-31 percent.

Romney gains

In the Republican Primary, the 7NEWS/Suffolk University poll also shows Mitt Romney (30 percent) leading John McCain (26 percent), while Iowa Caucus Republican winner Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani were tied for third at 11 percent. Following up were Ron Paul (8 percent), Fred Thompson (2 percent) and Duncan Hunter (1 percent). Ten percent were undecided. This is the first time in nine consecutive polls that Giuliani has improved his numbers from a previous poll.

“It would seem that the voters in the two counties that border Massachusetts have adopted former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as their favorite son,” said Paleologos. “The question now is: Will they turn out so that Romney can trade up Iowa’s silver medal for New Hampshire’s gold?”

Romney held 17-point leads in both bordering counties: Hillsborough (38 percent-to-21 percent) and Rockingham (41 percent-to-24 percent). These two counties account for more than half of the expected likely votes cast in the Republican Primary. McCain led Romney in the remaining eight smaller counties.

No bounce for Huckabee

With no apparent bounce registered, Iowa Caucus winner Huckabee seems destined for a third place finish – or worse.

The poll released today is the fifth in 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 is available all week in 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. 3 and Jan. 4. 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 Web site on Jan. 5, 2008.