The new Suffolk Poll has Jon Huntsman, previously stuck in the low single digits, at 10%, ahead of Rick Perry at 8%. Mitt Romney has a commanding lead at 41%; Ron Paul is in second at 14%. The new ARG poll likewise shows Huntsman at 10%, though it doesn’t show Perry fading so dramatically; Perry’s in second at 13% in the ARG poll, behind Romney (30%) and ahead of Paul (12%).
Dave Weigel digs into the Suffolk data (his headline refers to this amusing interview) and concludes that Huntsman’s strategy of running to the left is succeeding in attracting moderates, but concludes:
The danger for [Huntsman] is that the more conservative non-Romneys stay out of the state and the margin between him and Huntsman is too large to make it look like a surprise showing for the former ambassador. One thing I’ve found on trips to New Hampshire is that some conservative voters, concerned with electability, are finding reasons to back Romney — he was, remember, the “conservative” option against McCain in this primary four years ago.
There’s a flipside to this: If Huntsman does do well enough in New Hampshire to keep his candidacy viable, it could paradoxically help Rick Perry. Let’s say Perry wins Iowa, and then Romney wins New Hampshire with Huntsman relatively close behind. (This is assuming, for the sake of argument, that Huntsman continues to gain ground and beats Paul as well as the rest of the field.) Huntsman still seems unlikely to win — he’s just alienated conservatives too much to build a broad Republican coalition (Huntsman’s record is actually fairly conservative, but he’s made the odd choice to de-emphasize this). In that scenario, the race still comes down to Romney vs. Perry, but if Huntsman’s in the mix, he’s peeling moderate voters away from Romney, to the benefit of Perry.