We get a little 2010 electoral juice from a new American Research Group poll on our U.S. Senate race. Yes, it’s an ARG poll, and I know it has become a tradition for political commentators referencing their data to add a disclaimer to that effect, but the truth is we still like looking at their results. Sure, I would love a larger sample (but I’m also well-versed in the associated costs), and perhaps there are a few too many Democrats in this sample. Nonetheless, in this particular poll, the head-to-head match-up between Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes and former Republican Senator John E. Sununu has Hodes up by 6 percent.
My initial reaction to the Hodes advantage is that it sounds pretty reasonable to me at this moment in political time. First, Hodes has firmly committed to the race and unified his party behind him, whereas Sununu has not. It is true that recent UNH polling shows Hodes still has more work to do, in terms of statewide name recognition. But it is not surprising that there are a few more undecided voters in the Republican column, especially with the recent introduction of the Kelly Ayotte candidacy subplot. While Sununu is still quite popular among Republicans, the uncertainty over whether he is in the race (even in hypothetical runs) will inevitably hold his numbers down a bit.
Second, we should remember that Sununu lost to Jeanne Shaheen last November by a comfortable margin. I know some political observers have suggested that Shaheen’s margin of victory was largely due to a wave of anti-Bush sentiment (and Obama enthusiasm) at the national level, but I have also noted on several occasions that underlying changes in the state’s political demographics would make it more difficult for Sununu or any other Republican to reclaim a Senate seat should they desire to do so. So far, I haven’t seen the state Republican Party do much to address these underlying issues, although some national elected officials are finally raising warning signals.
I could say more about the Hodes advantage (check out gender), but I don’t want to read too much into just one poll. In fact, if you look at the same head-to-head match-up in the UNH poll from last month, Sununu enjoys the very same advantages that Hodes exhibits in the ARG results. Perhaps some of the recent intra-party skirmishing among local Republicans has nicked Sununu a little, but with 37 percent of independent voters still undecided in the new poll, the race will obviously be fluid for some time to come.  And, of course, any dramatic shifts in President Obama's electoral fortunes could have reverberations closer to home.

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