Senate 2008: Sununu Trail -- and Badly -- New Hampshire Polling

New polling out of the Granite State indicates that the 2008 New Hampshire Senate race could be bound to give Republicans even more of a headache than they previously expected. John DiStaso has the details for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

[T]he results of an American Research Group poll to be released today are no fun for Republican Sen. John Sununu, who's up for reelection in 2008.

ARG pollster Dick Bennett decided to do a head-to-head between Sununu and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, whom Sununu defeated nearly five years ago. Bennett said it was "just for fun," but also said Sununu "seems concerned about his relationship with the Bush administration, and when he distanced himself from the President, I thought there might be something there."

Although Shaheen has not said if she will run for the Senate in 2008, Bennett wanted a comparison to 2002. "The answer is, he acts concerned and probably should be."

And his problems stem from Bush, who registered an all-time low approval rating in the Granite State, 17 percent.

Based on 551 random phone interviews of registered voters (169 Republicans, 152 Democrats and 230 undeclared), Shaheen received 44 percent, Sununu 34 percent, and undecided 22 percent. The survey was taken March 25 through 28 and has a margin of error of 4.2 percent.

The poll showed that 17 percent of Republicans favored Shaheen and 16 percent were undecided, while only 1 percent of Democrats favored Sununu with 7 percent undecided. Independents split, 32 percent each way, with 36 percent undecided.

In October 2002, ARG found Shaheen with 43 percent, Sununu with 51 percent and 6 percent undecided. [emphasis added]

I'm not sure if these numbers could possibly be worse for Sununu and the Republicans. I've had some concerns about a Shaheen candidacy -- not only because she has not expressed too much interest in running but also because she didn't run the strongest campaign in 2002 (even notwithstanding the Republican voter fraud in the race) -- but these numbers indicate that she would be a formidable candidate against Sununu.

The problem for the freshman Senator is that while ARG did not poll other Democrats, these numbers would tend to indicate that any fairly strong Democratic candidate might be able to do him in. George W. Bush at a 17 percent approval rating? Even if this is asked in a somewhat unbalanced manner (say, excellent/good v. fair/poor), these numbers still bode terribly for Republicans in New Hampshire. What's more, the fact that more than one in six Republicans would chose the Democratic candidate in a head-to-head matchup featuring Sununu is terrible news, particularly given that Sununu fails to even break the margin of error among Democratic voters in the state.

No doubt, we are far away from election day and things can (and I'd imagine will) change. That said, as I opined just yesterday, Sununu is looking more and more like this cycle's Rick Santorum -- a Senator simply too conservative for his constituents -- and this polling does little to dispel the notion that Sununu is going to have the darndest time trying to win a second term next fall.

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Sununu Continues Trends of Voting Contrary to His Constituents

Earlier this month I noted that New Hampshire's freshman Republican Senator, John Sununu, had a bad trend of voting against the sentiments of his constituents, backing President Bush 90 percent of the time in 2006 and voting with his Republican colleagues against sensible legislation, such as the bill that would mandate the implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendations. And even as Sununu has garnered some positive headlines by calling for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a quick gander at some recent roll call votes indicates that he is still significantly more inclined to back the regressive positions of the far right within the Republican Party than to actually vote with the vast bulk of Americans, who want to see US policy driven not by ideological zeal but rather by at least some sense of reality.

Last week, the Senate voted on an amendment that, if enacted, would raise federal taxes on tobacco products to reauthorize and expand the extremely popular and effective SCHIP program, which helps insure children around the country. The amendment was sponsored by Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon, and when it came to a vote before the Senate it had the support of 13 Republican Senators, including conservative stalwarts like Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch of Utah and Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Yet while one of New Hampshire's Republican Senators, deficit hawk Judd Gregg, voted yea on the Smith amendment, the other, John Sununu, did not, reaffirming his fealty to the anti-tax movement instead of supporting an important children's healthcare program.

That's not all. Today, the Senate voted on language that would set a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of 2008. Polling released just yesterday from USA Today and Gallup indicates that such legislation has the strong support of the American people, with 60 percent backing such a deadline and just 38 percent opposing it. But when the bill came to a vote in the Senate, Sununu voted no.

If John Sununu seriously wants a shot at being reelected in 2008 in a state that has been trending more and more Democratic in recent election cycles, he simply cannot continue to keep up this extremely conservative voting pattern. My sentiment is that he will, in fact, continue to kowtow to the far right rather than toe the moderate line and, as a result, will find himself in about the same position as Rick Santorum in the last cycle -- way too conservative for the bluish-purple electorate in his state. Now if only the Democrats could find that one, single candidate who can actually capitalize on Sununu's continual missteps...

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Sununu Decides Corporate Interests Should Trump Homeland Security

John Sununu is a party-line kind of guy. In 2006, Sununu stuck with the majority of the Republican caucus on 91 percent of party-line votes and backed the President's position 90 percent of the time. In 2005, he received an "F" on his middle class report card from the Drum Major Institute.

But while such a record might suit Sununu in one of the reddest of the red states in the nation, unfortunately for him he represents a purple state -- New Hamphire -- that is trending more and more blue, a state that in November elected its first Democratic legislature in 130 years while reelecting a Democratic governor with close to three-quarters of the vote, a state that sent two Republican Congressmen packing in 2006 in favor of Democrats, a state that has backed the Democratic presidential nominee in three of the past four campaigns for the White House. Given this set of circumstances, it is at least somewhat surprising that on one of the first key legislative votes in the Senate this year -- on the passage of S. 4, which implements the recommendations of the 9/11 Commisssion -- Sununu voted no to appease his corporate conservative supporters who were unhappy with language that would allow for some new workers' rights. The New York Times' David Luo has more on what, broadly, the vote means.

The Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would enact more recommendations made by the Sept. 11 commission, but the bill faces the threat of a White House veto because it offers expanded union rights to airport screeners.


The Bush administration has made clear it will reject counterterrorism legislation that includes language pushed by Senate Democrats, granting collective bargaining rights to employees of the Transportation Security Administration. Administration officials said the labor requirements would hamper the department's flexibility in responding to terrorist threats.

Bolstering the veto threat, Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, sent a letter to the White House last month signed by 35 other Republican senators who said they were prepared to sustain a presidential veto.

If Harry Reid forces DeMint and his Republican allies to follow through on their threat to uphold the President's veto -- and there's good reason to believe that he will -- Sununu will be put on the hook one more time for putting his ideological backers ahead of America's national security. And such votes could not come at a worse time for Sununu, whose favorability rating among New Hampshire adults has fallen to just 45 percent, a very difficult position from which to run. And since Sununu was only barely able to win in a good year for Republicans despite illegal voter suppression tactics undertaken on his behalf, a 45 percent favorability rating cannot instill much confidence in Sununu supporters and Republican strategists hoping to see him win reelection next fall -- particularly as a strikingly large number of qualified Democratic politicians in New Hampshire are lining up to take him on.

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Trend in New Hampshire Looks Bad for Republicans

Once a firmly stalwart Republican state, New Hampshire has taken a turn in a decidedly different direction in recent years, most notably last fall reelecting their Democratic Governor with about three-quarters of the vote, electing the state's first Democratic legislature in more than 130 years and sending their two Republican Congressmen packing in favor of their underfunded Democratic challengers. Yet for as bad as the 2006 cycle was for New Hampshire Republicans, early signs seem to indicate that they might be on their way to losing another key position in the state -- one of their Senate seats -- a situation that could make it significantly more difficult for Republicans nationally to reclaim the US Senate.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already begun to run ads targeting Republican John Sununu, the state's junior Senator, and several Democratic candidates are lining up for the chance to take a stab at Sununu's seat, which has not been held by a Democrat for close to 30 years. What's more, a new Granite State Poll (.pdf) conducted by the University of New Hampshire at the beginning of the month finds that the favorability ratings of both of the state's Republican Senators are trending significantly downward.

John Sununu, New Hampshire's junior Senator is up for re-election in 2008.  He is being targeted by national and state Democrats, who see him as vulnerable because of his ties to the Bush administration and because of the big gains Democrats made in New Hampshire in 2006.  Sununu's favorability ratings have dropped somewhat in recent months and he is now viewed favorably by only 45 percent of New Hampshire adults, 25 percent having an unfavorable opinion of him, 20 percent are neutral and 11 percent don't know enough to say.  Sununu's net favorability rating is +20 percent, slightly down from +24% in September and at the lowest it has been since June 2003.  "A ten percentage point drop in favorability ratings in the past year should be a wake-up call for Sununu ," said Andrew Smith, Director of the UNH Survey Center.  "The 2006 election showed that Republican candidates must work harder to get their base to the polls in order to be successful.  At the same time, perceived vulnerability from lower favorability ratings could attract stronger Democratic opponents."

Since April, both Sununu and the state's senior Senator, Republican Judd Gregg, have seen their favorable ratings fall 13 points while their unfavorable ratings have climbed to 25 percent. While these numbers are not terrible in and of themselves -- to have a net 20 percent positive favorability rating is not necessarily the worst position from which to run a reelection campaign -- they do indicate a trend that could and indeed should be quite worrisome for both Republican Senators, as well as Republicans in the state trying to end the hemorrhaging of their support.

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DSCC Goes After Sens. Gordon Smith and John Sununu on Iraq

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is set to run newspaper advertisements across Oregon and New Hampshire blasting Gordon Smith and John Sununu, the two states' respective junior Republican Senators who are up for reelection next fall, for their failed leadership -- specifically the fact that they both voted against beginning a debate on America's Iraq policy last week. (For more on the Republicans' obstruction and obfuscation, check out this post.)

(Warning: links to a .pdf)

This is a start, but it should not be the end. Many of the Republicans up for reelection in 2008 -- including some from states that are considered fairly red -- are going to find it awfully difficult to explain to their constituents over the next year why they continue to strenuously resist efforts to change the failed Bush policy towards Iraq and start to bring American troops home. Simply put, the Republican gambit to shut down debate over the Iraq War will not, in the long run, help that party's cause, nor will the fact that we will almost undoubtedly have large numbers of troops still on the ground in Iraq come November 2008.

So if you're interested in making a contribution to help put this ad in papers in the key Senate hotspots of Oregon and New Hampshire, the DSCC has set up a link to take your donation.

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