New Hampshire’s bizarro politics continues to show itself in the latest St. Anselm College poll, in which Granite State voters overwhelmingly said the country is on the wrong track, it’s time for a change — and they love their incumbent politicians.
It’s the electoral equivalent of hating the sin (the current state of the economy, politics, etc.) but loving the sinner (the politicians in charge of the system you hate).
And “hate” is the right word. The survey of registered voters taken March 28-30 found a whopping 74 percent said the country is on the wrong track — tied for the highest number the poll has ever recorded. Voters are so dissatisfied, 70 percent think it’s time for more political parties in the electoral system and 79 percent said they would consider backing a third-party candidate.
Bad news for incumbents, right?
Actually, no. Sen. Maggie Hassan, whose approval rating has been perennially underwater, has her highest approval in two and a half years, 51 to 42 percent. Rep. Annie Kuster, who rarely polls well, is near an all-time high at 51 to 37 percent approval.
And while President Joe Biden’s numbers are lousy — 45 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove — they’re the best St. A’s has recorded since soon after he was sworn in.
Gov. Chris Sununu’s also in good shape (61 to 37 percent) near the center of his post-COVID polling bell curve.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party that’s brought America a revival of the worst of the 1970s — soaring inflation, rising street crime, and Russian military aggression — has enjoyed a polling revival at the same time. After 18 months spent tied or trailing Republicans on the generic ballot question, Democrats now have a solid 8-point lead.
Once again: 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track. And they want to keep it that way.
“An economy showing some weakness, Trump’s myriad legal issues, concerns about candidate age, and likely changes to the candidate pool create dynamics that will impact the 2024 presidential election,” said New Hampshire Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque, and perhaps he’s right. But his own poll shows the two “incumbents” — Biden and former President Donald Trump — solidly in the lead among their own party’s primary voters. Hardly a “time for a change” message.
It’s true Trump is at 42 percent, well below the halfway mark, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) is at a respectable 29 percent. (Sununu’s in third place at 14 percent, and nobody else can get to 5 percent). But if the two frontrunners are viewed, as many pundits believe, as “Trump” and “Trump Lite,” then Granite State Republicans want to stay the course. No change necessary.
Which may explain an electorate that’s both unhappy and politically immobile.
By sticking with Trump-style politics, the same politics they embraced in last year’s primaries, Republicans seem to be saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Except it is ‘broke.’ Trump lost here badly in 2020, and the Trump-embracing NHGOP got trounced in 2022.
The voters’ message to Republicans has been clear for months now: As lousy as everything is, we’re afraid you’d be worse.
Part of this is likely the lingering aftereffects of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, a decision that impacted New Hampshire perhaps harder than anywhere else in the nation. But watching New Hampshire Republicans rally around Trump amid his “hush money for a hooker” travails isn’t exactly sending the message of a party ready to turn the page.
New Hampshire Republicans seem quite content with the prospects of another Trump nomination. New Hampshire Democrats are positively giddy about it.
Like “hate the sin but love the sinner,” there’s another southern aphorism that may apply to the current state of the New Hampshire GOP: There is no education in the second kick of a mule.
The question between now and the 2024 elections is whether New Hampshire Republicans can be educated.