Three polls released in two days? Welcome to New Hampshire politics. And while the polls focused on different races and electorates, one trend emerged: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is currently in good shape for the 2018 midterms.
Two of the three polls (UNH’s Granite State poll and our NHJournal poll) asked the Sununu favorable/unfavorable question, and Sununu’s average is 58 percent approve, 21 percent disapprove. In a state carried by Hillary Clinton just two years ago, and where the Republican president is underwater by -13 points, those are solid numbers. It doesn’t mean the election is over, but it does show that Sununu is in a strong position to hold onto his office.
And while the two polls didn’t ask the same “head-to-head” poll question, they got similar results. Sununu’s head-to-head against Molly Kelly (48-32 percent) and Steve Marchand (48-33 percent) is very close to the Sununu vs. “generic Democrat” (47-34 percent) result from the NHJournal poll.
Sununu appears to enjoy a steady +13 lead over the Democrats 79 days ahead of the November midterm.
Democrats are cheered by the UNH poll finding their voters are slightly more motivated to vote than Republicans, 70-68 percent, and that 73 percent of voters haven’t made up their minds who they’ll support for governor in November. However, the NHJournal poll found a third of Democrats say they approve of the job Sununu’s doing, which takes the edge off a Democratic turnout advantage.
Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics poll has this interesting finding: Two of the Democrats in the First Congressional District primary, Chris Pappas and Maura Sullivan, have significantly higher name ID and approval ratings in their races than either of the two candidates for governor. Neither Molly Kelly nor Steve Marchand have approval ratings above 40 percent or name IDs that have reached 70 percent. Which is more evidence that their numbers vs Gov. Sununu are largely a “generic Democrat” pick and not commitment to the individual candidates.
The downside for Democrats is that, once they pick a nominee, the Sununu campaign will have a specific target for their campaign ads. The upside for Democrats is that, in a state where all four members of the congressional delegation are Democrats and Donald Trump is very unpopular, the more the race is a referendum on the Republican Party–as opposed to picking between individual candidates–the better.
All the available data show 2018 is going to be a good year for Democrats. For New Hampshire Democrats, the trick is finding a way to ride that wave against a popular GOP governor.