If Republicans want to win New Hampshire’s electoral votes for just the second time since 1988, there is a GOP candidate who handily beats President Joe Biden in Granite State polling.
Gov. Chris Sununu.
Meanwhile, on the eve of former President Donald Trump’s first visit to the state since announcing his candidacy, New Hampshire Republicans are evenly split on whether they want him to be the nominee in 2024.
Those are the findings of the latest New Hampshire Journal/Coefficient poll, conducted just days before the state party’s annual committee meeting on Saturday.
Asked to pick between Trump and “someone else,” 43 percent of primary voters picked the former president and 42 percent wanted an alternative. Given a list of choices, 37 percent support Trump, 26 percent back Gov. Ron DeSantis, and 13 percent said Sununu. No other candidates broke the 5 percent barrier.
“In the state that hosts the nation’s first primary, voters are already foreshadowing the potential dynamics of the 2024 presidential race,” said Ryan Munce, president of Coefficient polling. “It is a mixed story for former President Trump. He still maintains a plurality of support among Republican primary voters and has more support among his party faithful than President Biden has among Democrats.
“However, the poll clearly demonstrates Trump would struggle to win the general election, Munce added. “Next summer, Republican voters may have to choose between giving Trump a third nomination or having a clear winner in November of 2024.”
As in other recent polls, both 2020 nominees are having difficulties with their party’s voters. Only 37 percent of New Hampshire Democrats would back Biden over another candidate. Just 25 percent backed Biden over Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (16 percent), Michelle Obama (15 percent), and Vice President Kamala Harris (5 percent).
And 36 percent say there are undecided.
Interestingly, Biden’s best numbers are among low-intensity Democrats — those who have voted in just one of the previous four elections (40 percent. Among those “four for fours,” as regular primary voters are known, Biden is at 27 percent.
Biden’s advantage over Buttigieg comes almost entirely from older, self-identified conservative Democrats without college degrees — a fading part of the party’s coalition.
“These results indicate a sizeable number of New Hampshire Republicans and Democrats alike are ready to turn the page and move on from Joe Biden and Donald Trump,” said GOP strategist Jim Merrill. “Both enter the 2024 primary season as frontrunners, but this data shows their success is far from assured.”
But it is the general election match-up that presents perhaps the most interesting dynamic.
In a head-to-head vote among all Granite State voters, Biden and Trump were in a statistical tie (40 to 39 percent respectively). But Sununu handily beat Biden by 12 points, 48-36 percent. Among “four-for-fours,” Sununu had a 49-37 percent advantage over the incumbent president.
Although Sununu has yet to decide about running, his margin over Biden shows a potential path for him should he move forward. Sununu himself has talked about the need to expand Republican appeal beyond traditional strongholds. His strength in a “purple state” could mean he could put other states in play, too.
“Any Republican who is going to be successful in getting to the White House needs to carve a purple path, in addition to securing the traditional red base,” said a Washington, D.C., based strategist who is currently unaffiliated in the 2024 cycle. “Looking at how Sununu built a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and independents in his home state is proof positive that it can be done. If someone can do that it puts a lot of states in play. States like New Hampshire, Maine, Virginia, Arizona, and Colorado become true tossups, states Democrats can’t afford to lose.”
Gov. Sununu will not be attending Saturday’s state committee meeting where Trump is scheduled to speak.
And Greg Moore, executive director of Americans for Prosperity – New Hampshire, noted Biden’s numbers among Granite State women voters are surprisingly weak. He had just 44 percent against Trump and lost women 43-41 percent to Sununu.
“Considering the partisan gender gap in 2020, Biden seems to have lost support among women,” Moore said.
In a new national Echelon Insights poll, Biden’s approval dropped to 40 percent — the lowest since he took office. The controversy over his decision to strip New Hampshire of its First in the Nation primary is unlikely to help his standing in the Granite State.
“It’s no surprise that Gov. Sununu is one of those next-generation leaders New Hampshire voters are looking to. The strength of his showing in this survey, coupled with his record of accomplishments and heightened national stature, will only further encourage talk about a Sununu campaign for president,” Merrill said.