Republican Kelly Ayotte holds a 50-28 percent lead over Chuck Morse in the race for their party’s nomination for governor, according to the latest NHJournal/Praecones Analytica poll. But with 50 percent of the vote and 22 percent still undecided, there’s room for the race to tighten, experts say.

The survey of 420 registered Republicans was taken between May 15 and 20.

“These results prove that Kelly’s grassroots momentum only continues to grow—and shows no sign of slowing down,” said Ayotte campaign spokesman John Corbett. “Granite Staters know that Kelly is a proven fighter who will win this November, protect our New Hampshire economic advantage, and keep our state safe, prosperous and free.”

The Morse campaign sees progress and it hopes to build on it.

“As the margins continue to close, we eagerly anticipate debating—if Kelly ever agrees to it—our records, experience, and visions for New Hampshire,” said Morse campaign manager Maya Harvey.

“We are just getting started. We are confident that Chuck’s strong stance on securing the border, unwavering support for parental rights, steadfast commitment to the Second Amendment, and solid record of supporting President Trump will give us a competitive edge.”

In an NHJournal poll taken nearly a year ago, Ayotte was the choice of 69 percent of respondents. Morse was at 22 percent, and Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut, who was reportedly considering a race at the time, was at nine percent.

For many GOP operatives, however, the number that really matters is the money in the bank. They’re waiting for the next round of campaign finance filings on June 19. In last December’s financial disclosure, Ayotte reported $2.7 million while Morse, who ran an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate last year, reported just over $900,000 in total funds raised.

Ayotte also raised more money in that filing period than the two major Democratic candidates for governor — Joyce Craig and Cinde Warmington — combined.

One GOP strategist who declined to speak on the record said Ayotte still has a name ID advantage that’s influencing the polls. But Morse’s campaigning needs to start showing signs of turning that around.

“Morse has a case to make, and he’s got time to make it. But will he?”

Longtime New Hampshire politico Tom Rath told NHJournal the new poll number is no surprise.

“Kelly Ayotte has maintained a loyal following for quite a while, and so far nothing in this race has changed the dynamic. Kelly is well known and liked by the GOP and that still is the fundamental structure of the race.

“Chuck Morse is respected and admired by Republicans, but Kelly is the dominant post-Sununu figure in the party. I do not see what can change the nature of this race in these last few weeks. Kelly will use this time to position herself for the general. And she will enter that race with momentum and a solid lead,” Rath added.

Perhaps. But one area of potential concern is the poll finding that just 49 percent of Republican voters are more enthusiastic about voting this year than in the past. Nearly 30 percent are less enthusiastic.

A national Gallup poll taken last month found 59 percent of Republicans are more enthusiastic and 35 percent are less. If that 10-point gap is among the college-educated, affluent suburbanites who backed Nikki Haley in the First in the Nation presidential primary and they sit out the September primary, that could hurt Ayotte.

Still, says UNH political science professor Dante Scala, Ayotte has the advantage.

“Just like her first primary, this is Ayotte’s to lose,” Scala said. “But remember, she almost did just that back in the summer of 2010.

“The question is, what percentage of ‘none of the above’ voters know who Chuck Morse is? Is there growth potential there for him as the Ayotte alternative?”