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Hassan’s Decision Changes Outlook in 2 New Hampshire Races

Hassan's entry had been expected for months. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After months of speculation, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan announced her bid Monday to challenge GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, setting up what should be one of the most competitive Senate races in the country.  

Hassan’s decision is yet another victory for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which continues to succeed in fights with the other Democratic campaign committees for top recruits. But it won’t be an easy race.  

The matchup between Ayotte and Hassan features a pair of top candidates in a swing state. But the senator appears to start in a solid position. An Aug. 3-6 poll conducted by Democratic firm Hart Research for Planned Parenthood Action Fund showed Ayotte with a 58 percent job approval rating, compared to 31 percent who disapproved. That was a stunning contrast to an Aug. 21-24 automated survey by Public Policy Polling, another Democratic firm, which pinned the senator’s job rating at 38 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove.  

Ayotte led Hassan by a single point in the PPP poll and by 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent, in an Aug. 26-Sept. 2 NBC News/Marist poll.  

The bottom line is that Democratic chances improve with Hassan in the race. We’re changing the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rating from Leans Republican to Tossup/Tilts Republican .  

A reasonable case can be made for the race to be a pure Tossup, and it’s possible that Donald Trump or other GOP candidates can damage the Republican brand and make it more difficult (or even impossible) for Ayotte to win, but the senator starts the race in decent shape, with $4 million in campaign funds at the end of June.  

Without Hassan running for re-election, Democrats’ chances of holding New Hampshire’s governorship slip. But history is still on their side.  

Democrats have won nine of the past 10 gubernatorial elections. Craig Benson, the only Republican governor of New Hampshire in the past 20 years, was defeated for re-election in 2004 after a single, two-year term.  

But the open seat brings a level of uncertainty to the race as the fields take shape.  

GOP Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, brother of the former senator and son of the former governor, announced before Hassan’s decision. But other Republicans could join the races as well. Democrats could be headed for a primary between Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, and Portsmouth City Councilor Stefany Shaheen, daughter of the state’s other senator. Of course, other Democrats could jump in, too.  

New Hampshire could be a presidential swing state and the open seat is an opportunity for Republicans, but the burden of proof is on them to prove this is a pure Tossup. For now, we’re changing the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rating from Favored Democratic to Tossup/Tilts Democratic .

Related:

Maggie Hassan Will Run for Senate in New Hampshire Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.