Poll: Romney widens lead in NH; Gingrich drops to fourth place

A new poll finds Mitt Romney pulling away from the Republican pack in New Hampshire as Newt Gingrich falls further behind the GOP front-runner.

The latest Suffolk University/7News tracking poll released Monday shows Romney with the support of 43 percent of likely GOP voters, well ahead of second place Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) at 17 percent. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman who has focused his campaign's efforts in the state comes in third with 9 percent.

Another seven percent was split among Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

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Further boosting Romney's prospects in the Granite state, the survey found that his supporters were unlikely to change their minds before the Jan. 10 first-in-the-nation primary.

Seventy-three percent of Romney's supporters said they unlikely to change their vote compared to 64 percent for Huntsman's supporters and 60 percent of Ron Paul backers.

David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University's Political Research Center said the results showed that "Romney is closing the deal."

The poll also presents troubling news for former House Speaker Gingrich who once challenged Romney for front runner status in national polls and was earlier seen to be closing the gap in New Hampshire.

The poll finds Gingrich in fourth place with 8 percent support down six points from a mid-December Suffolk survey. In November, Gingrich secured the backing of the influential New Hampshire Union Leader, but has since lost any bump in the polls.

Santorum is surging in Iowa where a recent Des Moines Register poll showed him in third place but in New Hampshire he only gained 3 percent support in the Suffolk poll only a point gain from a mid-December survey.

The Suffolk poll was conducted on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 and has a 4.4 percent margin of error.