If John Lynch decides to run for reelection as Governor of New Hampshire next year he'll have a big advantage no matter who the Republicans run against him. But our polling suggests that Democrats might start at a disadvantage in an open seat situation.
57% of voters approve of the job Lynch is doing to 33% who disapprove. In addition to predictably strong numbers with Democrats (84/10), he also has majority approval with independents (52/35), and an unusual amount of crossover support with a third of Republicans giving him good marks (33/56). Lynch leads all four hypothetical opponents we tested against him by double digits: it's 11 points over John Sununu at 51-40, 18 over Ovide Lamontagne at 54-36, 19 over Jeb Bradley at 54-35, and 21 over John Stephen at 55-34. If Lynch wants another term it looks to be pretty much his for the taking.
If Lynch decides to move on though Republicans may have the advantage for this office. We tested that quartet of potential GOP candidates against three possible Democratic alternatives in the case that Lynch were to retire- Maggie Hassan, Steve Marchand, and Mark Connolly. The Republican leads in 11 out of those 12 possible match ups, with the only exception being a tie between Connolly and Stephen.
The early Republicans leads are modest in size. Sununu leads the trio of Democrats by 8-9 points, Bradley's advantage is 6-8 points, Lamontagne's is 6-7, and Stephen leads by only 1-2 points beyond his tie against Connolly. There is a very high level of undecideds in all of the match ups with 19-31% of voters saying they're not sure who they would vote for if there was an election today.
The early GOP advantage may be more attributable more than anything else to their pool of potential candidates being better known than the Democrats. All 4 Republicans we tested have higher name recognition than all 3 of the Democrats we looked at. From best known to least known it's Sununu with 82% of voters having an opinion about him, followed by Bradley and Lamontagne at 64%, Stephen at 58%, Hassan at 33%, Connolly at 27%, and Marchand at 26%. It's possible some of that early lead for the Republicans would disappear as the Democrats became better known.
One thing that's particularly interesting about the 7 folks we looked at as possible alternatives to Lynch is that they all have negative favorability numbers. None of them stand out as folks who would start out with immediate popularity and credibility with voters in the state. That leaves plenty of room for other folks to get into the mix if this actually becomes an open seat situation as well.
John Lynch can probably have this office as long as he wants it but it's going to be a tough fight for Democrats when he leaves.
This analysis is also available on our blog:
A press release and full crosstabs are attached