If Gov. Chris Sununu were looking for a sign he should seriously consider entering the 2022 U.S. Senate race against junior Sen. Maggie Hassan, the new Saint Anselm poll gave him one — in bright neon lights.
Hassan, a first-term Democrat, hasn’t polled well in years. A University of New Hampshire poll released in January found she was the least popular of the top-tier politicians in the state, with a tepid +5 approval/disapproval margin.
But at least she was above water.
In the new St A’s poll, conducted between June 9-11, Hassan’s numbers are now 46 percent approve, 49 disapprove — a margin of -3 points. Worse, she’s underwater with undeclared voters 40-53 percent and with self-described moderates 35-58 percent.
Hassan’s the only New Hampshire politician in the poll who’s underwater with the Granite State voters. (President Biden is -1 in the poll as well.)
“Voters know all too well that Maggie Hassan was elected on a promise of bipartisanship, but she has become a hyper-partisan senator toeing the Democratic Party line every day of the week,” veteran GOP strategist Michael Dennehy told NHJournal. “It’s not a popular place to be.”
Sununu, on the other hand, boasts a healthy 68 percent approve/30 percent disapprove rating, yet another reason many political observers believe he’s the national GOP’s top 2022 potential prospect.
Most Granite State GOP insiders believe Sununu will challenge Hassan next year rather than run for a fourth term as governor or leave politics for the private sector. If Sununu is running, he is in no rush to announce his plans. He told Good Morning New Hampshire with Jack Heath last week, “I’m really going to enjoy having a summer and fall…of just being a governor.”
Dr. Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire told NHJournal nobody should be surprised Hassan is struggling.
“Remember, this is a first-term incumbent who won office with a plurality, not a majority, of the vote,” Scala said. “Also, she’s no longer part of the anti-Trump party. She is now part of the party in power.”
Republicans have a lot to like in this poll, which surveyed 921 New Hampshire voters and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.
The generic congressional ballot is at the closest in the poll’s history at 44 percent Democrat and 43 percent Republican. The previous high for the GOP, in June 2020, was three points lower. Five months later, the GOP picked up 16 House seats. Today, it appears likely Republicans will win back the majority in Biden’s first midterm.
Overall, the Democrats’ lead on the generic ballot has shrunk seven points since March when they held a 48-40 percent lead.
While a strong majority of voters, 59 percent, think the country is heading in the wrong direction, a plurality of voters believe New Hampshire is headed in the right direction, 42 percent to 37. The separation between federal and state-level issues, and a large delta between the governor’s approval and that of the federal delegation, reflects how voters behaved back in November.
In 2020, voters split the ticket, sending all three congressional Democrats up for re-election back to D.C.; at the same time, they made New Hampshire the only state in the country to flip the House and the Senate from Democrat to Republican. Voters, according to the survey, continue to think they made the right choice.
Traditional wisdom says the party out of political power in the nation’s capital fares worse in midterm elections. If this new poll is even close, New Hampshire Democrats could be facing an uphill battle heading into November 2022.