As the Leaves Change, So Does New Hampshire

     “Live Free or Die.”  New Hampshire’s motto seems to say it all this year.  Given the liberal Obama agenda which transfers freedom from the individual to the bureaucratic statism of Obama’s vision of the Federal government, if New Hampshire residents take their motto to heart- and I believe they do- Democrats are in trouble in this New England paradise.

     In case anyone noticed, they have a Governor’s race this year.  Considering the stakes at the national level, the fact that incumbent Democratic Governor John Lynch is up in the polls by 15 points is not cause for worry.  Safe to say, Lynch will win re-election.

     Most of the interest is in the Senate race this year as Republican incumbent Judd Gregg has decided to call it quits.  Gregg epitomized the winning Republican prototype for those in the northeast- especially New England- by taking a more moderate stance and attempting compromise over confrontation.  But when the chips are down, Gregg is a Republican.  From very early on, it was a foregone conclusion that the race to succeed him would feature Kelly Ayotte (yes, Howard Dean, there are women in the GOP) against Paul Hodes, the current 2nd District Congressman.  Although Ayotte survived a last minute scare and surge by her opponent in the Republican primary, she did prevail.  Unlike Delaware, common sense ruled in New Hampshire as Republicans there chose the most electable candidate.  Since polling began in these Senate races, Ayotte has held fairly sizeable leads in hypothetical and now actual match ups against Hodes.  Some Democratic and liberal sites are taking heart in the fact that recent polls show Hodes closing the gap somewhat.  For example, the most recent poll shows her up by only five points.  However, when one looks at the averages over several months, I believe they are more accurate indicators of the final outcome and those averages have Ayotte up by about 10 points.  That would seem about right- a 55-45% win.  I do not believe either candidate will win with anywhere near 60% of the vote.

     Most of the “waning” support of Ayotte is actually non-existent.  Partly spurred by fatigue after the primary where she took some bruising along the way, more undecideds are making up their minds and some are drifting toward the Democratic column making the race appear closer than it has.  Thus, it would appear that he is closing the gap and gaining momentum.  That would be troublesome if not for the fact that Ayotte has consistently polled in the high 40’s and her lowest monthly average of 43% occurred in February 2010.  Since then, she has never dropped below 45% while Hodes still has not broken the 40% mark until most recently- and then, only in a single poll.  Even if two-thirds of the undecideds break for Hodes, Ayotte would still win the race.  The bottom line is that Republicans are more motivated to vote and vote for Ayotte than Democrats are motivated at all this year.  Additionally, among the undecideds and independents, Hodes is a Washington representative while Ayotte is one of their own and a Washington outsider. 

     Both candidates have high name recognition in the state.  Because of its small size, despite having two Congressional districts, each district race is a de facto statewide race.  Such is the case with Hodes and his statewide name recognition.  It is not like California, Texas, or New York.  Of course, as State Attorney General, Kelly Ayotte has statewide name recognition also.  As for Hodes, unfortunately, he does have his record in Congress to run on…and explain.  And what is that record?  Hodes voted for the Obama stimulus, cap-and-trade, the auto bail out, Wall Street “reform,” and Obamacare.  He did vote against TARP, a Bush initiative, but that is probably the one successful program.  Conversely, the choices are very clear as Ayotte supports diverting unused stimulus funds towards deficit reduction, opposes Obamacare, the Wall Street bill and not only opposes cap-and-trade, but questions the science behind the great global warming hoax.  In essence, Ayotte is the anti-Hodes.  And the people are making their decisions through Ayotte as to how they feel about them.  Kelly Ayotte will be the next Republican Senator from New Hampshire.

     That leaves the two Congressional districts.  In the First District, incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter is being challenged by Frank Giunta.  Recent polls show Giunta up by 10 points, but only by three points overall.  The incumbent status of Shea-Porter will only help her so much in this cycle, but like the Senate race,  her voting behavior reveals her to be a solid supporter of the Obama agenda.  Although many pundits rate his race a toss up, I will go on a limb and predict a Giunta victory by a six-point margin, 53-47%.

     Likewise, in the seat being vacated by Hodes, Republican Charlie Bass is taking on Democrat Anne Kuster.  He currently leads by eight points in the most recent poll and by about nine points average overall over 5 polls.  The more polls, the more reliable the call.  Should the next poll show Bass still leading, one would be inclined to call it for Bass. 

     Generally, New Hampshire votes for the more moderate, less b.s.-spouting candidate.  Hodes needs to explain his unpopular votes in favor of major Obama initiatives.  Surprisingly, when looking at the Gallup State of the States polling regarding their general welfare and state of their economy, the residents of New Hampshire rate very pessimistically.  Not as bad as a Nevada or Michigan, but lower than some states where there will be obvious Republican gains.  This does not bode well for Democrats in New Hampshire.  Gregg’s seat will remain in Republican hands while both Democrats in Congress will be gone come January, 2011.  The Democratic Party in New Hampshire will have to find solace in their victory in the Governor’s race only.  But a word of warning to Republicans in the state:  voting behavior indicates that they are not shy of electing new faces of either party should the candidates not live up to their promises.  Yes, New Hampshire went to Obama in 2008, but the victory was not overwhelming.  This is a state that can go either way which sort of validates their importance in the primary season despite their size.  It explains why there is such emphasis on three electoral votes.