Voters in the U.S. state of New Hampshire are preparing to cast ballots in the 2012 presidential race’s first primary election, with front-runner Mitt Romney heavily favored to beat his Republican challengers.
Social conservative Rick Santorum, who lost to Romney by only eight votes last week in the Iowa caucuses, said Monday he would be thrilled to come in second to the former Massachusetts governor.
But the latest opinion polls suggest that second place may go to Ron Paul, a Conservative Texas congressman.
Still, the Republican presidential hopefuls Monday had not given up on trying to dissuade voters from choosing Romney, intensifying their attacks during last-minute campaigning.
Much of the criticism has centered around Romney’s previous career running a private investment firm where he made millions of dollars. Many people say Romney’s firm laid off hundreds of employees from companies it bought, while making large profits for the investors.
And many political analysts think the primary election in South Carolina next week will reveal whether the moderate Romney can rally the support of conservative voters.
All the candidates have been seeking to highlight their conservative credentials against the more liberal President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
Two other major contenders for the Republican nomination are Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the former U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman. Neither of them is seen as likely to win a significant number of votes in the New Hampshire poll.
New poll numbers released Monday show Romney with a 12-point lead in Florida, the next primary after South Carolina. But the Quinnipiac University poll also shows that more than 50 percent of Republican voters say they might change their minds and choose a candidate perceived as more conservative.