April 8, 2021


The 2022 Senate race no one is talking about (Josh Kraushaar,  April 6, 2021, National Journal Hotline)

Recent polling bears out the Republican opportunity in the Granite State. A St. Anselm College survey conducted last month showed Sununu leading Hassan by 6 points in a hypothetical matchup, 47 to 41 percent. The poll showed Sununu receiving a stellar 67 percent job-approval rating as governor, bolstered by his management during the COVID-19 crisis. Hassan's approval stood at a respectable 47 percent, with 44 percent disapproving of her performance.

On the flip side, Sununu's high ratings are reflective of the less-partisan politics that executive leadership provides. In a more ideological battle for Congress, voters typically retreat to their partisan corners. The same poll found Democrats holding an 8-point edge on the generic ballot, 48 to 40 percent. Against Ayotte, whom she narrowly defeated in her first campaign, Hassan led by 5 points, 48 to 43 percent.

Sununu, who boasts one of the highest gubernatorial approval ratings in the country, has been coy about a Senate run, though he hinted at his interest in federal office during an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio last month. "How does my skill set fit the service? And if I can find where there might be a need there, if I can find where my skill set fits, where it might fit my family dynamics and in kind of long-term planning and vision," Sununu said. If he runs, he'd be expected to clear the field of intraparty competition.

New Hampshire has become a shade more Democratic than the national electorate, but it also swings significantly based on the national mood. The state nearly voted for Donald Trump in 2016 (he came fewer than 3,000 votes short) before swinging big towards Biden in last year's election. New Hampshire's 1st District has been a perennial bellwether, swinging back-and-forth between parties in four consecutive elections from 2010 to 2016, while remaining competitive in the previous two cycles. Sununu has won three consecutive elections for governor, in good Republican years and bad (the state has two-year terms). To Hassan's credit, she won reelection as governor in 2014, a tough year for Democrats, and then unseated Ayotte two years later in an otherwise productive year for Republicans.

The final factor making New Hampshire's Senate race so intriguing--beyond the Senate balance of power--is the likelihood of a political grudge match. If Sununu runs, it would give his famous political family an opportunity to make up for his brother John's tough reelection defeat in 2008 against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. If Ayotte ends up as the nominee, it would be a chance for her to avenge her excruciatingly close defeat against Hassan five years ago. New Hampshire is a small state where all these political rivalries take on outsized significance.

In winning the governorship in '16, Mr. Sununu ran so strongly he nearly carried Donald over the line with him.  Meanwhile, Ms. Hassan seems indistinguishable from Ms. Shaheen to me--successful female ex-governors with identical voting records--but is somehow far less popular.  Her constituent services must be non-existent or something. 

Posted by at April 8, 2021 6:54 AM