NRSC - Cook Report: Ayotte Solidifies Frontrunner Status

NOTE: Hodes’ struggle stems largely from the fact that he is a member of the Democratic majority in an unpopular Congress running in a year in which the political environment is tilted against his party. New Hampshire voters seem to want change this year… But, another part of Hodes’ problem seems to be that he just isn’t connecting with voters in a state where residents take some pride in meeting their candidates. The Democrat has had ample time to make inroads here and if it hasn’t happened by now, there is little reason to believe that it will happen in the next four weeks. Ayotte has sustained her share of blows from every corner and yet is still standing with a net positive rating. It is very unlikely that this race will change course and it moves to the Lean Republican column.

 

http://www.cookpolitical.com/node/8677

 

New Hampshire Senate: Ayotte Solidifies Frontrunner Status

Cook Political Report

By Jennifer Duffy

October 7, 2010

 

Republican former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte has been a target from the moment she got into the race. First, some establishment Republicans wondered why national Republicans recruited her into the race ahead of other, more experienced candidates. Then, conservatives argued that Ayotte is not one of them. Ayotte was the target of three primary opponents, who attacked her from every angle, only to see her win the nomination. Finally, there is Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes, who has had Ayotte in his sights since last spring. He used his first television ad in the campaign – aired well before the Republican primary – to attack Ayotte.

 

While Ayotte was battling for the nomination in the September 14th primary, Hodes had a clear field. In fact, he had a nearly clear path for the better part of 18 months. Still, he hasn’t been able to establish himself as the frontrunner or demonstrate that he is closing in on Ayotte.

 

According to the HuffPollster.com trend line of all general election polls, Ayotte has a nine-point advantage on Hodes, 48 percent to 39 percent. Of the last 10 surveys, Hodes has only cracked 40 percent in four of them. His high mark has been 44 percent while his low point was 32 percent. Ayotte’s low point in the same 10 surveys was 45 percent, while she’s been at or above 50 percent in four polls.

 

A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll (September 23-29 of 472 likely voters) gave Ayotte a 15-point advantage over Hodes, 50 percent to 35 percent. Ayotte’s favorable/unfavorable ratings were 41 percent to 29 percent, while Hodes’ were 29 percent to 39 percent. We are also aware of Republican polling that has Ayotte ahead by a margin in the low teens.

 

It’s notable that Ayotte has been able to keep some distance with Hodes, despite the fact that she only recently went back on television; her campaign was dark for 10 days after the primary while Ayotte worked to replenish her war chest. Now, both candidates are back on the air.

 

Ayotte’s first general election ad went on the air last week and features her standing at a fork where a tree-lined trail splits. In the spot she says, “America's future can go down two different paths -- we can stay on the path of more spending, higher taxes and more government control over our lives. That's Paul Hodes' path. But I think we know where that leads. Or we can change direction and go forward with core principles, don't spend more money than we have. Small businesses create jobs better than the government does and taxes are too high already.”

 

In Hodes’ latest ad, he says, “Here in New Hampshire, even in tough times, we don't forget what's important. I'm Paul Hodes and we live life and live within our means. So should government. Starting with a 10 percent pay cut for Congress and the President, too. A hiring freeze. And stop the deficit spending. Kelly Ayotte and I just disagree. She'd double the deficit with more tax cuts for the wealthy and tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. I approved this message because we're in this together. I hope you agree.”

 

While Ayotte hasn’t been on the air, she’s gotten some help from American Crossroads which launched a spot a week after the primary. According to the script, an announcer says, “In New Hampshire, Congressman Hodes claims...”


HODES: “You deserve a senator who's a real fiscal conservative and who gets rid of the pork.”


ANNOUNCER: “But Hodes voted for the pork-filled stimulus bill -- 1.9 million dollars to study ants in Africa, 39 million dollars for office upgrades for politicians, billions wasted and unemployment still higher. No wonder the Union-Leader says... The guy just can't tell the truth.”

 

Hodes’ struggle stems largely from the fact that he is a member of the Democratic majority in an unpopular Congress running in a year in which the political environment is tilted against his party. New Hampshire voters seem to want change this year, which explains why even popular Democratic Gov. John Lynch finds himself locked in a tough race. Both congressional seats, which are currently held by Democrats, are also in play. But, another part of Hodes’ problem seems to be that he just isn’t connecting with voters in a state where residents take some pride in meeting their candidates.

 

The Democrat has had ample time to make inroads here and if it hasn’t happened by now, there is little reason to believe that it will happen in the next four weeks. Ayotte has sustained her share of blows from every corner and yet is still standing with a net positive rating. It is very unlikely that this race will change course and it moves to the Lean Republican column.