Monday, August 24, 2020

Race of the Day- New Hampshire Governor

New Hampshire Governor

71 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Likely Republican

Only New Hampshire and its neighbor Vermont, hold Gubernatorial elections every two years. It must seem like a never-ending cycle for those involved. The politics of the state have been competitive, but Democrats have won most big elections at the federal level in recent years. The exception being Chris Sununu's victories as Governor. The Republican was first elected in 2016, even as Donald Trump was narrowly losing the state and Kelly Ayotte, a first-term GOP U.S. Senator who struggled with supporting then backing away from Trump, was unseated.

Sununu basically grew up with his father as Governor of the state, and a brother, 10 years older, also served in high office, including one term as a U.S. Senator. The current Governor has tried to walk a fine line regarding Trump, keeping him at arm's length, but at the same time trying to stay in the good graces of the supporters of the candidate who won the 2016 New Hampshire Primary. This helped Sununu win a Republican primary in 2016 by less than a point and then a general election in November that year by two points. In 2018, he did, as most Governors who have only served two years have done, and won reelection, this time by a solid seven points. Sununu then angered some in MAGA-land by standing up for the independence of the First in the Nation primary saying that the state party would not openly support Trump, as most other state parties were doing. Of course, that did not stop the incumbent President from dominating the contest.

The Governor has had fairly strong approval ratings in the state and many wanted him to take a chance and run for the Senate in 2020, especially if the seat opened up. The incumbent Democrat would stay put though and Sununu is running for a third two year term. Both incumbents are considered solid favorites. First though next month, the current Governor has to get past a primary challenge from his right. Polls are showing this will not be anywhere near a problem against Karen Testerman, a Franklin City Councilor. The Asian-American conservative activist has run statewide before and has been critical of Sununu with the claim that he has moved too slowly to re-open the state amid Covid 19 related shutdowns.

Two Democrats are running to oppose Sununu. One is Dan Feltes, the State Senate Majority Leader who seems to be the party establishment choice. Opposing him is Executive Council member (essentially an odd fourth branch of New Hampshire state government) Andru Volinsky. At age 64, he is a good deal older than the 40'sish Sununu and Feltes. He seems to be a more activist liberal candidate and is being backed in this primary by Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the two time reigning New Hampshire Democrat Presidential Primary winner.

It is hard to envision a statewide race in New Hampshire turning into a blowout, especially with Trump on the ballot. The polls show that Sununu is in a very solid position against either potential opponent though. It might be interesting to see whom he would prefer to face. Feltes might be able to win more crossover votes, while energy and turnout among Berniecrats could gin up votes for Volinsky in November. The primary is rapidly approaching but a recent poll for that shows nearly half the states Democrats are undecided and with Feltes ahead of Volinsky by merely a 22-19 margin.

If Sununu wins a third term, as expected, it might be worth it for Republicans to examine how he has managed to remain politically popular in what is at least close to a blue state.

Governor races predicted thus far: 
1 D (1 Likely)
4 R (2 Likely, 2 Lean)

Total with predictions thus far:

21 Democrats (20 holdovers, 1 Likely)
23 Republicans (19 holdovers, 2 Likely, 2 Lean)


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