Some elections are easy to predict. Others not so much. File this one in the “not so much” category.
It is difficult to get a bead on how the election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, will go in New Hampshire. Democrats in the Granite State are fired up about the Bill O’Brien-led state House of Representatives. Republicans are fired up against the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Who wins? Who knows?
“Every poll is like 50-50, it’s right down to the wire,” said James Basbas, whose company, Altos Marketing, handles online marketing and website design for Ovide Lamontagne’s campaign. Basbas does not speak for the campaign.
With all this in mind — and with an eye toward enjoying the horse race now that it’s almost over — here are my predictions for how Nov. 6 might go.
This appears to be neck-and-neck in the Granite State — quite a turnaround since only three weeks ago it seemed like President Barack Obama would cruise to a second term. A Granite State Poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center had the president up 9 points over Gov. Mitt Romney a few weeks ago. Following the first debate, Romney surged in New Hampshire and nationally.
Clearly, both candidates see New Hampshire as very much in play. It’s also clear the state’s four electoral votes could be important. It appears there is no way this race won’t be close in the Granite State.
Margin: 1 or 2 points either way
Reasoning: A Real Clear Politics average of five major polls compiled during last month, has the president with a 2-percentage-point edge on Romney in New Hampshire. As of earlier this week, most polls fell within the margin of error. “I think the momentum has to be on Romney’s side,” Basbas said. “Any time the incumbent is under 50 percent, he’s vulnerable.” Basbas said it’s all about who can turn out their base. New Hampshire went Obama’s way in 2008, and he has been almost a regular visitor this past year. This election is about jobs and the economy, and that is Romney’s forte. Romney has been a regular in New Hampshire as well, first campaigning for the state’s presidential primary, and then in the general election. While Romney has a pretty good relationship with New Hampshire voters, and while Democrats might not be as engaged or energized as they were in 2008, they’re still looking to bounce back from a disastrous 2010 midterm election.
Gov. John Lynch has spent his four terms being a moderate governor who rarely took stands unless he needed to. While it kept Lynch above the political fray, it also angered some that the governor didn’t always appear willing to take a leadership role on controversial issues.
With soaring approval ratings throughout his term, it would appear voters appreciated Lynch’s approach. Former state senator Maggie Hassan has tried to fit herself squarely into Lynch’s mold. Ovide Lamontagne, who has talked about being a governor who would take more of a leadership role, has tried to pigeonhole Hassan as a tax-and-spend liberal, despite her taking the pledge against an income or sales tax.
Margin: 1 point
Reasoning: Polling data has the two candidates tied or extremely close: a poll from liberal Public Policy Polling has Hassan ahead 48-44, as of Sunday, Oct. 28, while a New England College poll had the race locked at 45 percent, as of Thursday, Oct. 25. A poll from the more conservative Rasmussen Reports has Lamontagne up 2 points. With campaigns overwhelmed with cash from the top of the ticket all the way through, it makes each individual race less about issues and more about turnout, particularly the governor’s race, said liberal-leaning pundit Arnie Arnesen. Arnesen sees Lamontagne and Hassan as perhaps surprisingly similar on a number of issues but gave Hassan the edge in the gender politics department. Arnesen said Lamontagne lost in 1996 to Jeanne Shaheen because he was too much of a social conservative. “He might lose in 2012 for the same reason,” Arnesen said. “They are extremely similar except for social issues.” It’s easier for Hassan and Democrats to negatively tie Lamontagne to the legislature than it is for Lamontagne to paint Hassan as a tax-and-spender, particularly since Lynch hasn’t given Republicans much to work with.
1st Congressional District
Both candidates, Carol Shea-Porter and incumbent Rep. Frank Guinta, are well-known. Shea-Porter held the seat for two terms and then lost to Guinta by nearly 12 points in 2010. Guinta has the advantage since the district leans Republican, but Shea-Porter probably has a stronger grassroots network. For Shea-Porter to succeed, she has to be able to lump Guinta in with disapproval of Congress. That’s something Guinta has fought, even by having an auto-call that seems to suggest Shea-Porter is the one in Congress.
Pick: Rep. Frank Guinta
Margin: 3 points
Reasoning: Some polls have shown Shea-Porter up significantly and others have shown the opposite. In four University of New Hampshire polls dating back to August, Guinta has gone from down 2 points, to down 9 points, to up 10 points, to be being up by 3 points as of Oct. 21. Shea-Porter was swept out of office in 2010 in the Republican wave. She was lumped in with Nancy Pelosi. This time, Guinta might be lumped in with a Congress that has low approval ratings. But Shea-Porter needed Democratic waves in 2006 and 2008 to win. “I don’t think anybody likes either one,” Arnesen laughed. “You watch the debates and you want to run out of the room. It’s exhausting.” Basbas sees Shea-Porter as especially liberal and Guinta as especially conservative.
2nd Congressional District
This was marked as the race to watch almost from the moment Rep. Charlie Bass narrowly beat Ann McLane Kuster by 1.5 points on election night 2010. Kuster’s campaign was lauded. Bass, a well-known figure in New Hampshire politics, is a moderate Republican — he probably has to be, in the state’s liberal-leaning 2nd District.
Pick: Ann McLane Kuster
Margin: 2 points
Reasoning: The district’s Democratic tilt hurts Bass. But Bass is resilient, Basbas said. He’s held off challenges from within the party and he held off Kuster last time. Still, Basbas said he wouldn’t be surprised if Kuster pulls it out.
Bass could certainly surprise here and by all accounts he’s running perhaps his best campaign, but the guess is that this time around, Kuster takes the seat. According to UNH polls dating to August, Kuster went from 5 points down to 3 points up as of Oct. 21. Arnesen sees Bass and Kuster as positioning themselves on the same political turf. “He’s back to the old moderate Charlie...” Arnesen said.