The gubernatorial race is still difficult to figure.
With less than three weeks to go before the state primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 11, the candidates remain largely unknown by many New Hampshire residents, according to the latest WMUR Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
Things appear to be solidifying on the GOP side with Ovide Lamontagne, the longtime presumptive favorite for Republicans, with his favorability among Republicans rising sharply since April. Lamontagne is the only candidate on either side of the political spectrum who is known by a majority of New Hampshire adults, according to a Survey Center press release. But even so, nearly half the population says it doesn’t know enough about him to give an opinion.
Pollsters interviewed 581 randomly selected New Hampshire adults between Aug. 1 and Aug. 12. The survey has a sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percent, according to the release.
It’s not necessarily surprising — many people tend to tune out politics until Labor Day — but that 47 percent of people still don’t know enough about Lamontagne is notable. He has essentially been running for governor since he lost the GOP primary for U.S. Senate to now-Sen. Kelly Ayotte in 2010 — and he is a former gubernatorial candidate. Still, he has a big lead in terms of recognition over everybody else. Lamontagne’s net favorability jumped to +47 percent among Republicans from +30 percent in April.
But no one has staggering numbers in his or her favor. According to the release, 29 percent of residents view Lamontagne favorably, while 19 percent have an unfavorable view of him, 5 percent are neutral and 47 percent of people don’t know enough about him to decide.
Kevin Smith, the former executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research, has been seen as the young upstart in the race. He seems to be putting in the effort, but he and Lamontagne don’t necessarily differ much politically, and Lamontagne had a major head start in name recognition and messaging. Smith faces an uphill battle marked by the 73 percent of people who don’t know enough about him to have an opinion, according to the press release, which also showed that 14 percent of residents have a favorable opinion of Smith, 9 percent unfavorable. Clearly, Smith has a lot of work to do in a few short weeks.
On the Democratic side, people are even less familiar with the candidates. Former state senators Maggie Hassan and Jackie Cilley and businessman Bill Kennedy are vying for the nomination. According to the press release, 72 percent of people don’t know enough about Hassan, 74 percent don’t know enough about Cilley and 83 percent don’t know enough about Kennedy to have an opinion.
Sixteen percent of residents have a favorable view of Hassan, 8 percent unfavorable. Fifteen percent have a favorable opinion of Cilley, 8 percent unfavorable.
Out of everybody, Lamontagne’s numbers look the most promising, but still, nearly half the adults in the state don’t know enough about him, so it’s still fluid. Head-to-head matchups don’t seem to give anyone a substantive advantage. According to the Granite State Poll, Lamontagne would best Hassan 33 percent to 31 percent, with 35 percent undecided. Hassan would beat Smith 31 percent to 29 percent, with 39 percent undecided. The numbers are nearly the same when Cilley and Kennedy are each matched up against Smith or Lamontagne, according to the release.
Not VP, but off to convention
Sen. Kelly Ayotte was in the thick of the discussion about who would be Mitt Romney’s running mate, but in the end, the nod went to Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
A nice consolation prize, though: an invite to speak at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., which takes place Monday, Aug. 27, through Thursday, Aug. 30.
Ayotte is listed as one of six “headliners” to address the convention. She joins Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Rep. Connie Mack, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and former Democratic National Convention Speaker Artur Davis, who recently announced he was joining the GOP.
Ayotte was able to build her profile in New Hampshire and nationally with all the VP speculation. What might have longer-standing positive consequences could be the strong rapport she seems to have developed with Romney on the campaign trail. At the least, that probably helps Ayotte tap into some fundraising networks, but it could turn into an administration post if Romney wins the election this fall.