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Is Next Week's Debate A 'Must-Win' for Romney?

That's the takeaway from a NH survey this week. One Republican says Romney must "play hardball" in first presidential debate Oct. 3.

Most New Hampshire Republicans think Mitt Romney will use the Oct. 3 debate with Barack Obama to turn his campaign around in New Hampshire: that's the main finding of this week's survey of influential New Hampshire Republicans and Democrats.

This week, to get a read on what our influential Republicans and Democrats are thinking ahead of the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, we sent out surveys to both our Red and Blue Granite survey participants. 

Forty-two out of 107 Republicans and 28 of 78 Democrats responded to this week's survey.

When asked if they think Romney will use the Oct. 3 campaign to turn around his campaign in the Granite State, 41 percent said they strongly agree, 29 percent said they somewhat agree, five percent said they somewhat disagree, five percent said they strongly disagree, 17 percent were neutral, and five percent had no opinion.

Many Republicans cited the importance of this debate for Romney, saying he needs to go on the attack against Obama if he's going to win the election.

"It's a MUST-WIN for Romney," said one Republican.

"Romney HAS to start playing hardball," said another.

Still another said Romney needs to "go on the offensive and put the President on the ropes."

The Democrats received a bit of a different question. When asked if they think Obama will perform well in the Oct. 3 debate on the issues New Hampshire voters care about, an overwhelming majority answered positively. Eighty-two percent said they strongly agree, 11 percent said they agree, and 7 percent were neutral. None said they strongly or somewhat disagree.

Less than a third of our influential Republicans said they feel strongly that Romney would win New Hampshire if the presidential election were held today. Thirty-one percent said they strongly agree, 33 percent said they somewhat agree, 14 percent said they somewhat disagree, 7 percent said they strongly disagree, and 14 percent were neutral.

"It's too late for Mitt," said one Republican who won't be watching the debate. "He's already purged conservatives from the party and they are going elsewhere now."

Meanwhile, nearly half (48 percent) of Democrats responding to our survey said they strongly agree that Obama would win New Hampshire if the election were held today. Another 44 percent said they somewhat agree, four percent were neutral, and four percent somewhat agree. None strongly disagree.

"President Obama will be the clear choice for this country moving forward," said one Democrat.

"I have good feelings about the debates," said another. "The president is smart and cool under pressure. I don't think the same can be said of Mitt Romney."

Asked for the single-most important idea about the economy that Romney must convey in the debate, 55 percent of the Republicans responding said he needs to make it clear that Obama can't help the U.S. economy. Twenty-six percent said Romney should focus on his private sector experience, 7 percent said he should focus on how his budget will cut the national debt, and 2 percent said he should focus on how tax breaks for job creators will help the U.S. economy. None said he should focus on his record as Massachusetts governor.

Asked a similar question about Obama, 32 percent said the president needs to focus on what he will do to bring the unemployment rate down. Eighteen percent said he needs to focus on ObamaCare and the auto bailout as successes, 18 percent said he should say that Romney would gut vital services from vulnerable Americans if elected, 7 percent said he should focus on how Romney will tilt tax policy toward the rich, and another 7 percent said he should talk about how Romney's budget won't cut the national debt.

When asked what issue is the most important for Romney to focus on to win over undecided voters in New Hampshire, about half of the Republicans who responded cited jobs or the economy. Some said he should just focus on Obama's record as president.

Still others were more cynical.

"That he isn't an idiot who thinks 47% of the country are lazy...oh wait," said one Republican.

"It's too late for Mitt. He's lost," said another.

When asked the most important issue for Obama to focus on to win over undecideds in New Hampshire, jobs and the economy were also the most common answers given by Democrats responding to our survey. Several also mentioned Medicare and Social Security.

Jobs and the economy were also the most frequent answers when Republicans were asked what issue is the most important for Romney to focus on to galvanize conservative voters in New Hampshire. Smaller government also received several votes.

When asked the most important issue for Obama to focus on to galvanize liberal and Democratic voters in New Hampshire, there was more of a mix. Some cited gay marriage, women's rights and helping the middle class.

The Red and Blue Granite surveys

Our surveys are not a scientific random sample of any larger population but rather an effort to listen to a swath of influential local Republican and Democratic activists, party leaders and elected officials in New Hampshire. All of these individuals have agreed to participate in the surveys, although not all responded to this week's questions. Surveys were conducted between Sept. 24 and Sept. 27, 2012.

Patch will be conducting Red Granite and Blue Granite surveys throughout 2012 in hopes of determining the true sentiment of Republicans and Democrats on the ground in New Hampshire. If you are an activist, party leader or elected official and would like to take part in a weekly surveys that lasts just a few minutes, please email Regional Editor Marc Fortier at marc.fortier@patch.com.

Gary G. Krupp September 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM
28 Democratic insiders and 40 Republican respondents? Not only is this poll not scientific, as noted by the Patch author, but it is irrelevant "make news". Who cares what 67% of a group of people that could fit in a phone booth think? I used to be one of the Republican respondents to these surveys. After my pleas to the Patch editors were ignored (to increase the sample size or reduce the number of conclusions they draw from the data), I had to drop out. It is laughable that these polls generate so much discussion.
C Barry September 29, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I know 10 of these folks, half R's, half D'. I will not tell you how many of each are fools. Its pretty high and equal.
wm as it is. September 29, 2012 at 11:20 AM
obama has 20 percent of independents in ohio middle class is not much better.go figure?.
Charles Hatch September 30, 2012 at 12:10 AM
The debates should be interesting. Perception,body language, facial expressions, demeanor. Mitt Romney has 20 under his belt. Then again Mitt Romney will be debating The President of the United States who has access to more information and is a pretty good orator himself. President Obama is liked, Romney is not, so let the debates begin.
Debra W October 02, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Undecided voters: http://youtu.be/Lv0ryYJY-UM

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