A new UNH poll released Wednesday is the latest to show 2020 nominee Matt Mowers and newcomer Karoline Leavitt in a tight race for the GOP nomination in the First Congressional District. But it comes with a twist: Gail Huff Brown is also in the hunt.
The latest edition of the Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, finds nominal frontrunner Mowers with 26 percent and Leavitt in the margin of error at 24 percent. Huff Brown has 16 percent support, while former Executive Councilor Russ Prescott and state Rep. Tim Baxter top out at four percent.
Both Leavitt and Huff Brown seized on the news.
“This latest poll from the University of New Hampshire proves what voters know – our campaign is surging and Matt Mowers will be moving back to New Jersey on September 13th,” Leavitt said in a statement. “Despite the establishment spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to rescue Mowers, they will not slow down our grassroots momentum and support. I am proud to be the homegrown, America First Candidate in the race, and I am fired up to fire Chris Pappas in November.”
Among the GOP groups spending on behalf of Mowers is the Congressional Leadership Fund, the House Republicans’ main super PAC, which is closely affiliated with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Huff Brown’s campaign released a memo claiming the poll shows, “Mowers appears stuck in the mud as his once formidable lead has dissolved and Karoline Leavitt eats into his vote share among hard-right voters. The high number of undecided voters makes this race a jump ball, but momentum is with Gail who stands to benefit the most as less ideological late deciders, traditional and moderate Republicans, and independent voters get exposed to her latest ad highlighting her support of the New Hampshire law on choice.”
Running a pro-choice ad in a GOP primary is an unusual strategy. In the latest St. Anselm College Survey Center poll, which asked extensively about abortion issues, just 15 percent of Republicans called themselves “pro-choice.”
The Mowers campaign declined to comment on the UNH poll, which has plenty of critics in Granite State politics, who say its methodology of relying on a voter panel is not as reliable as other methods.
Baxter mocked the results on Twitter.
“They call it a poll, but if you read it… It’s literally not a poll LOL,” Baxter tweeted, adding: “We did a flash poll with our email list that has at 100 percent. Maybe we should put that out and call it a poll.”
But multiple sources with access to polling data from a variety of polls tell NHJournal they were not surprised that Leavitt’s closing gap, having seen her momentum over the past several weeks. Mowers’ support, on the other hand, has remained relatively flat.
“Here’s the only poll I need,” one veteran GOP source told NHGOP. “CLF is dumping $1.7 million boosting Mowers. They have plenty of data. They wouldn’t be doing that if he were up by 20.”
The UNH poll also featured results from the Second District GOP primary. Outspoken pro-Trump candidate Bob Burns has a solid lead over Keene Mayor George Hansel 32-18 percent, with Lily Tang Williams at 10 percent. But the leader in the race is still “undecided” at 37 percent.
Burns has been boosted by more than $100,000 in spending on mail and television by Democrats promoting his candidacy in the GOP primary. It appears to be part of a national strategy to help candidates Democrats believe are too extreme to win a general election in November.
Another mailer — again without the legally required disclosures for political marketing — hit on Wednesday.
While Democrats’ polling nationwide has improved in recent weeks — President Joe Biden’s approval is approaching 42 percent for the first time in months — the Cook Political Report still lists both of New Hampshire’s congressional seats as toss-ups.