CONCORD, New Hampshire, July 6, 2011 ( – Former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney holds a commanding lead in the GOP presidential race, but pro-life Tea Party candidate Michele Bachmann is surging ahead, making her a contender for both the Iowa caucuses and the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary, according to recent polls.

Both Romney and Bachmann call themselves pro-life; however, the former Massachusetts governor has little record on pro-life issues. He had described himself as “pro-choice” until 2005, telling conservatives that he subsequently experienced a conversion.

Bachmann, on the other hand, has amassed a record as a staunch pro-life advocate in the U.S. House of Representatives; she vocally led the effort to defund Planned Parenthood of federal funding, and professes a no-exceptions philosophy on the right to life for the unborn child.

A new Public Policy Polling survey shows that in New Hampshire Bachmann has closed the gap to within single digits of Romney. Bachmann takes second place at 18 percent, while Romney has 25 percent of the New Hampshire GOP vote.

Romney, according to PPP, has lost ground, receding from 37 percent. The survey also notes that his favorable/unfavorable ratings have dropped 18 points from 68/19 to 60/29.

The automated poll found former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (who is undeclared) was third, supported by 11 percent of Granite State GOPers, followed by Rep. Ron Paul of Texas at 9 percent. Both Texas Gov. Rick Perry (also undeclared) and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain tied for fifth at 7 percent.

If Palin does not enter the race, her supporters are expected to lean toward Bachmann, given that the two GOP women share many similar views.

Two other New Hampshire polls show a more commanding lead for Romney, but also confirm that Bachmann has surged into contention for the state.

A WMUR Granite State Poll shows 35 percent of likely New Hampshire primary voters lined up behind Romney. Bachmann finishes second with 12 percent, still a significant improvement from her pre-debate single digit obscurity.

Winning New Hampshire was a key victory for Sen. John McCain, putting him on the path to capturing the 2008 GOP nomination for U.S. president.

However, Iowa is also a critical contest that can give some pivotal momentum and name-recognition among the electorate. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee launched into contention for the 2008 GOP nod after winning Iowa, but was unable to capitalize on his victory owing to a much smaller campaign budget. He did beat out Mitt Romney, coming in second overall to McCain in the 2008 primaries.

A recent Des Moines Register Iowa Poll also shows Romney and Bachmann are neck-and-neck in that state in the run-up to the Iowa caucus. Romney leads Bachmann by a point, 23 percent to 22 percent.

Bachmann has an advantage going into Iowa, playing up her Iowa-roots and her pro-life bona-fides to the socially conservative GOP crowd – although the Minnesota congresswoman has plenty of competition from other GOP candidates seeking to replicate Huckabee’s win in the state.