Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

New Hampshire U.S. Senate

September 13, 2008
52 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

While the Granite State has not sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since the Watergate year of 1974, their chances this year seem far greater than ever before.

Six years ago, Congressman John Sununu, the son of a prominent former Governor of the state, defeated in a competitive election, the state's popular outgoing Democrat Governor Jeanne Shaheen. Many polls before the election had been predicting a victory for Shaheen, but on Election Day, the Republican streak remained intact and Sununu was looked at as an increasingly rising star in the GOP.

For whatever reason, Sununu has struggled during his first term to make much of a name for himself in the Senate, and while he is respected at home, and would likely be favored over other Democrats in the state, he now is facing an uphill challenge in a rematch against Shaheen. The former Governor, who had accepted a position at Harvard University, delighted Democrats across the country when she resigned that post in order to make a second run for the Senate.

Since that time, polls have shown her leading Sununu, but by varying margins. A couple polls this summer have put her ahead by 11 and 22 points, while others have shown the race far closer at four or five points. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that in many of these polls, Sununu appears ot make up ground from one survey to the next, only to lose it again in the next sample, for reasons that are tough to determine. Earlier this month, Republicans released the results of their own poll which shows Sununu only trailing by two points, which is significantly closer than a lot of the other surveys.

It is very possible that Sununu will never catch up and Shaheen will have a fairly easy victory. In fact, I do feel that in a state of ticket splitters, she has certainly has to be considered the favorite at this time, but I still have to consider this race a tossup... barely. Republicans in the past have looked likely to face defeat in U.S. Senate races in New Hampshire, including Sununu himself in his first race, and have managed to find a way to win. Any overall increase in enthusiasm or support for the GOP Presidential ticket in the state is likely to carry into the Senate race as well. The Obama campaign is certainly planning on winning New Hampshire, but it is worth noting that in this year's Democrat Presidential primary, that candidate ran severely behind what the public polls were predicting.

So, while I have the hunch that this will be one of the U.S. Senate seats that the Democrats will pick up this year, I still think that the state's fickle polling history and the ability for Sununu to perhaps remain very competitive, through television ads and debate performances, make it too early to completely shut the books on a certain turnover.

Sununu campaign link:

2008 U.S. Senate races predicted: 9 D, 12 R
Predicted Senate balance of power thus far: 48 D, 38 R


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