Despite middling approval ratings it appears Barack Obama will win New Hampshire easily next year...unless the Republican nominee is Mitt Romney.
New Hampshire voters are evenly divided on Obama with 46% approving and 46% disapproving. He's on slightly positive ground with independents at 46/43, but Republicans (86%) are more united in their disapproval of the President than Democrats (76%) are in their approval and that's what leaves him at an even split overall.
In spite of his relatively weak personal numbers Obama blasts most of the leading GOP candidates in the state by even wider margins than the 10 point win he earned against John McCain in 2008. He leads Newt Gingrich by 13 points at 52-39, Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee each by 14 points at 51-37 and 52-38 respectively, and Sarah Palin by a whooping 22 points at 56-34. That makes New Hampshire another of Palin's 'Goldwater' states- her deficit there would be the largest for a Republican candidate since 1964 when Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater by 27 points.
The reason Obama leads by so much despite voters ambivalence about him is that New Hampshire voters simply hate most of the potential Republican candidates. Huckabee's favorability is 29/52 and besides him the rest of the folks have unfavorable numbers at the 60% level or even higher- 27/60 for Trump, 24/62 for Gingrich, and 28/67 for Palin.
So Obama could be headed for another big victory in New Hampshire...but if the GOP nominated Mitt Romney it would be a completely different story. A slight plurality of voters have a favorable opinion of him- 45% to 44% with a negative one, and Obama leads him by only a 47-46 margin.
The New Hampshire numbers are quite reminiscent of a poll we did in Nevada earlier this year that found a Romney nomination would result in a toss up situation in the state but that the GOP nominating anyone else would hand Obama an easy victory. The Republican nominee will have to win these kinds of states to be successful in 2012 but whether the party base will be open to sacrificing some ideological purity to put forward a candidate who can win in the New Hampshires and Nevadas of the world remains to be seen.
Full results here