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Even with a new poll showing Republicans competitive in the New Hampshire Senate race and Rep. Paul Hodes (D) the only announced candidate getting off to a slow fundraising start, the GOP doesnt appear to be any closer to sorting out who will carry the partys banner next year.
Hodes posted one of the worst first- quarter fundraising performances of any Democratic Senate candidate this year. Meanwhile, a recent poll showed the Congressman trailing Sen. Judd Gregg (R) and former Sen. John Sununu (R) a result that many could argue is understandable given the fact that both Republicans have been elected statewide.
But Gregg is not running again, and it doesnt look like Sununu is ready to re-enter political life either or at least he wont make a decision about it for a long time. While Hodes continues to run and fundraise, Republicans are still searching for their silver bullet candidate.
You look at the landscape and youd think there would be an opportunity for somebody who could come out of the blue and move themselves, said Greg Moore, a Republican consultant in the state.
According to a recent Granite State poll, Sununu led Hodes in a head-to-head matchup, 46 percent to 41 percent, with 11 percent of voters undecided. Gregg led Hodes by an even larger margin, 52 percent to 36 percent, with 10 percent undecided. The survey took the opinion of 503 adults in New Hampshire from April 13 to 22 and had a margin of error of 4 points.
Senate Republicans dont expect Sununu to run again in 2010. Although the former Senator has not completely closed the door to a bid, national Republicans are continuing with candidate recruitment under the assumption that he is not interested in running.
A source close to Sununu said that if he runs, he will likely take a page out of the playbook of the woman who defeated him in 2008: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. When Democratic leadership put the full-court press on Shaheen to run for the seat, she did not discourage any other candidates from running while she made her decision. When Shaheen finally got into the race, she almost instantly cleared the Democratic field.
First of all, youve got a situation in which people are waiting to see what Johnny Sununu does, Moore said. I think he would be the strongest, barring a change of heart by Judd Gregg.
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh expressed confidence that the committee would find a candidate to run against Hodes.
We are actively recruiting and are confident that at the end of the day that this will be a very competitive race and well keep it in the Republican column, Walsh said.
But in the meantime, Republicans have been forced to look elsewhere in the Granite State.
Several Republicans mentioned that former Gov. Steve Merrill, who served from 1993 to 1997, could be interested in running. In another blast from the GOP past, 1996 gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne is also seriously considering running for the seat.
Both Washington, D.C., and New Hampshire Republicans also mentioned Republican National Committeeman Sean Mahoney as a possibility. The wealthy businessman could throw some of his own money into the race as well an enticing option for Republicans considering he would likely be facing an incumbent Congressman.