NRSC - Portsmouth Herald - Poll: Senate nearly a sure thing for Ayotte

Poll: Senate nearly a sure thing for Ayotte

Portsmouth Herald

By Deborah McDermott

October 27, 2010

Barring any last-minute glitches, it's looking very likely that Republican Kelly Ayotte will be the next U.S. senator from New Hampshire, political analysts said.

"Unless she makes a major error, I think she'll win it," said Michael Dupre, senior research fellow at the N.H. Institute for Politics at Saint Anselm College. "She's above the fray. I think her campaign is just going to let her ride at this point."

The University of New Hampshire Survey Center released its last poll Oct. 14 for the race between Ayotte, the former state attorney general, and Democrat Paul Hodes, the current congressman from the state's 2nd District. That poll of 709 likely voters gives Ayotte the edge, 50 percent to 35 percent over Hodes, with 12 percent undecided.

Andrew Smith, director of the Survey Center, said one more set of polls will be released Sunday, but he's not anticipating any major shifts.

"It's a strong Republican year, and they're energized to get out to vote. Democrats are dispirited. You see in New Hampshire what you see across the country," he said.

Smith said he thinks several factors contributed to Hodes' polling numbers. For one, he said, Ayotte had already come out of a competitive primary season having a campaign in place and a message, while Hodes had no competition in the primary.

"She ran a hard primary and she pulled it off. She's battle-tested. Hodes didn't have that. He wasn't forced to put together a good organization early on, and she had that advantage over him," he said.

Dean Spiliotes of said, "Unfortunately," Hodes' campaign just never really materialized.

"The race didn't turn out to be the competitive one we thought it would be after the primary," he said, adding issues such as Ayotte's role in handling the criminal investigation of mortgage broker Financial Resources Mortgage Inc. never stuck with voters.

Further, the analysts all agreed, the poll suggests Democrats themselves are not wowed by Hodes.

"There's not a deep well of support for him. He hasn't captured the imagination of the Democrats," Spiliotes said.

"And at this point, even if you came out with something (against Ayotte), strategically, you're looking at a lot of white noise," Dupre said.

Moreover, said Smith, people seem to like Ayotte, which is not atypical of attorneys general who run for office.

"They prosecute bad guys and lock them up. People like that," he said.

Dupre agreed. "She's likeable — and she hasn't made any mistakes."