Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Chris Sununu have big leads in the latest poll of New Hampshire voters — so large, in fact, that N.H. political insiders are matching them against each other, rather than their actual opponents.
The toplines from the new UMass-Lowell poll tell the story: Sen. Shaheen leads her Republican opponent Corky Messner by 19 points, 56 to 37 percent. Gov. Sununu leads Democratic state Sen. Dan Feltes by 26 points, 60-34 percent.
So, it’s safe to say Shaheen and Sununu are the prohibitive favorites in their races. The more interesting question is, how are they performing against each other?
Yes, Sununu has a larger margin in his match-up, but his opponent isn’t as well known as Shaheen’s rival. Believe it or not, twice as many Granite Staters (17 percent) say they’ve never heard of Feltes as Messner (9 percent) — an odd circumstance given Messner’s a political newcomer and Sen. Feltes has held public office since 2014.
Here’s a look at how Shaheen and Sununu stack up against each other in the latest poll:
In fact, the only political figure in the UMass-Lowell poll with a higher approval rating than Sununu is COVID-19 czar Dr. Anthony Fauci.
This isn’t the first time Sununu has outpolled the state’s senior senator. Polls by UNH have consistently found Sununu’s approval higher than Shaheen’s, and a series of 2019 polls showed a theoretical match-up would be a neck-and-neck race.
“I truly appreciate the enthusiastic encouragement from so many that I run for the United States Senate,” Sununu said when he announced he was running for re-election last year. “We all know that I would defeat Jeanne Shaheen, but others can, too. Never before has a sitting twelve-year Senator from New Hampshire accomplished so little.”
Not surprisingly, the speculation over a potential Sununu Senate bid continues, and his expected win over Feltes will add fuel to the fire. In the past, Sununu has said he has no interest in going to Washington, D.C., but his appearance in TV ads endorsing both NH-01 GOP candidate Matt Mowers and Shaheen’s opponent have NHGOP insiders back in speculation mode.
“He’s not on the shortlist to run against [Sen. Maggie] Hassan — he is the shortlist,” one NHGOP insider told NHJournal. “And you know the [National Republican Senatorial] Committee is going to be applying a lot of pressure — because he’d win. So it’s up to him.”
It may not matter. On Tuesday, Sununu told WMUR’s Adam Sexton he “definitely has no interest in running for Congress or Senate.” But interestingly, Sexton began the question by referencing a viewer “wondering if you’re going to run for President in 2024.”
Sununu pointed left that possibility out of his answer.