Midterm Races in Connecticut and New Hampshire

Besides the congressional races in Connecticut, there is a competitive gubernatorial race.  First, incumbent Democratic Governor Dan Malloy finds himself in a serious match up against Republican Tom Foley who barely lost to Malloy in 2010.  In a race that most polls show Foley ahead or barely behind, the attacks have gotten personal of late with both sides bringing up old allegations against one another.  Overall, Foley leads in the average of all the polls from a variety of sources.  The problem thus far has been the trend in the polls.  In mid-August, Foley was up by about 2 points or even, but has since dropped.  The latest polls show him actually trailing or even.  Apparently Malloy’s debate performances and attacks have had some impact.  This is a race was there for the taking for Foley.  Malloy had made some serious enemies in Hartford in both parties for various reasons and his approval ratings in a state that was bleeding population and jobs did not bode well.  The fact Foley has been sidetracked with these extraneous issues and the fact he has not closed the deal in recent weeks gives me cause for some concern.  Prediction: Despite these setbacks, Malloy’s approval ratings are dismal  At this point I am predicting a very close Foley victory.

All the congressional districts are represented by Democrats and they should remain that way.  If there is a chance of any district flipping, it would be [mc_name name=’Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’E000293′ ] losing in the 5th.  However, the chances of that happening are remote unless it truly is a Republican wave year.

New Hampshire presents an entirely different dynamic altogether.  In the gubernatorial race, incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan is pitted against Republican Walt Havenstein.  There is considerable polling here to get a gist of how this race will turn out.  Havenstein won a tough primary where I thought he was the least conservatively palatable candidate.  What were his weaknesses in a primary are proving to be strengths in the general election campaign.  Havenstein is running on a fiscally conservative, socially liberal platform and making campaign finance reform a central theme.

Still, one needs to consider that Hassan enjoys relatively high approval ratings in the state.  In is expected that at the state legislative level, the house will remain Democratic controlled and their state senate in the hands of the GOP.  Whoever wins must negotiate that political minefield.  It is, nevertheless, an interesting race to watch as Election Day nears because Havenstein is closing the gap.  The defining issue may be the future of energy in New Hampshire and both candidates paint very different outlooks.  Regarding that polling gap, although it is being closed, Havenstein likely cannot make up enough ground before Election Day. A closer than predicted loss could prove a moral victory for the GOP.  Prediction: Maggie Hassan by about 3-4 points.

Both congressional seat races are shaping up to be competitive.  In the 1st District, which is politically more conducive to a GOP victory, incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001170′ ] will face Republican Frank Guinta, the man she ousted in 2012.  This is a very swing district which I rate even.  Virtually every pundit has this rightfully rated as a toss-up race.  To listen to the polls, neither candidate is particularly popular, but here we are again…and again.  New Hampshire has traditionally low primary voter turnout which favored Shea-Porter who has a committed, liberal base.  Its why other liberals in the 1st don’t stand a chance right now no matter how vulnerable Shea-Porter is in a general election context.  Because partisan membership in Granite State districts are almost evenly split, the national winds dictate the winners.

Towards these ends, Shea-Porter won in 2008 because of Obama.  As his popularity dropped, Guinta mounted a win in 2010, but as Obama again looked like the President in 2012, she won.  Now that Obama’s approval ratings are at an all-time low, Shea-Porter’s chances diminish.  Considering the fact that Obama’s approval ratings in this district are not that much higher than the national average, one can predict that Frank Guinta will win this election.  This is one of the most heavily polled congressional districts this cycle.  It will be close, but Frank Guinta will win this race.  Note: Don’t be surprised if Shea-Porter is back again in 2016 for yet another rematch.

The 2nd District, which is more favorable to the Democrats, has come into play with the emergence of Republican state representative Marilinda Garcia.  She is a name to watch in Republican circles in the future, win or lose.  Incumbent [mc_name name=’Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’K000382′ ] is a more formidable challenge for the GOP, but Garcia has polled relatively close, down an average of only 6 points.  Garcia has been campaigning heavily by scheduling at least 5 town hall meetings between now and Election Day while Kuster has hunkered down and launched attack ads.  The DCCC has launched an ad describing Garcia as “too extreme” for New Hampshire.  It is sad day when Garcia’s health care coverage has become a campaign issue, but that is how desperate the Democrats are this year.  I am not quite ready to declare this race for Kuster- I would like to see a couple more polls.  But at this point, I believe [mc_name name=’Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’K000382′ ] will win a 6-7 point victory which is great news for Garcia in the future.

Now on to the featured race here- incumbent Democratic [mc_name name=’Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S001181′ ] against Scott Brown.  Run as she might try from the Obama record and her votes in the Senate, but Jeanne Shaheen cannot hide.  This race may not be decided by a savvy campaigner like Scott Brown or a fairly popular Senator like Jeanne Shaheen, but by the national mood- a mood that has soured on Obama and is echoed in New Hampshire.  What once looked like political opportunism on the part of Scott Brown may now actually be his Yellow Brick Road back to the Senate.

Thus far, Shaheen has opted to fight Brown long distance through attack ads rather than meeting him in face-to-face debates.  Instead, she has launched a statewide tour to paint Brown as an extremist against women’s rights.  That may get the minimal New Hampshire feminist crowd riled up, but it won’t win too many independents which both sides need in this race.  Give Scott Brown a leg up here.  In the most recent debate, both sides scored points and had some good lines regarding the ISIL threat, Ebola and the minimum wage.  Most likely, it will make little difference.

But giving a leg up and winning an election are two different things.  Shaheen is playing a coy game trying to wait out this campaign.  Its like the football coach with the lead hoping to run out the clock by safely running the ball up the middle and telling the running back not to drop the ball under any circumstances.  Sadly, I think her strategy will pay off.  Prediction:  Shaheen by no more than 5 points, most likely 2-3.  

For those keeping count, at this point in this series of articles, the Republican Party has picked up a net total of 1 Governor’s office, 3 Senate seats, and 7 seats in the House.

.Next:  A state that should not be this late in the series- Kansas.


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