Why New Hampshire could spring a Senate surprise


Politicians have been predicting for weeks that the race for control of the Senate will come down to three or four states: Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, with some Arizona thrown in. But is that list too limited?

Political history – and recent spending columns in the race – suggests we should broaden our perspective. Republicans have a real chance of overturning Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan’s seat in New Hampshire.

The background to the race is simple. Hassan won by 0.1 points in 2016. This year, Democrats spent money in the Republican primary to nominate their favorite opponent, Don Bolduc. President Joe Biden has gone back and forth on whether he has legitimately won the 2020 election.

The first poll after the primaries indicated that Hassan was the clear favorite to retain his seat. A super PAC aligned with GOP leader Mitch McConnell pulled its advertising from the race.

But in the past 10 days, the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm began returning the money.

What exactly is going on?

Some polls that do not meet CNN’s publication standards have produced results that indicate a close race or a Republican advantage. Close, though, it matches what the campaigns are seeing in the state.

This is the kind of seat you can expect New Hampshire Republicans to be competitive, given the polls we’ve seen nationally. A CNN/SSRS poll released this week put Republicans up by four points in the general congressional vote. That’s an 8-point swing for Republicans from the last 2020 presidential result.

An 8-point change from the 2020 result in New Hampshire would put the seat in play. In 2020, Democrats won the presidential vote in New Hampshire by seven points.

The competitiveness of the New Hampshire Senate race is in line with what we’re seeing in other congressional races in New York and New England: About 10 Democratic-held seats are up for grabs.

In fact, it would be strange if the New Hampshire Senate race were not competitive, given all these facts.

Specifically, it is unclear how a Republican victory in New Hampshire would affect the Senate map.

One view is that New Hampshire Republicans would only win if there was a nationwide election. They will not win if the national elections are close.

Another perspective is that the polling averages in Arizona (most polls have Democratic Senator Mark Kelly ahead) and New Hampshire are quite similar. The states are located in different parts of the country and are demographically different. Sometimes survey errors cluster regionally and demographically. It is plausible that a polling error that affects New Hampshire does not affect Arizona in the same way. And in such a case, Republicans can win New Hampshire while not winning Arizona.

Either way, New Hampshire may give us an early guide to how the Senate race is shaping up. There are no early or absentee ballots in the state, unlike many other Senate seats up for grabs. We should know pretty early on election night what the vote looks like.

Sure, New Hampshire can beat to the beat of its own drum now and then. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen held on to her seat in 2014, even as Republicans easily flipped the Senate.

How the Granite State votes this year, compared to the nation as a whole, won’t be known until a few days after Nov. 8 and all the votes are counted. Republicans, however, welcome the fact that a seat that was lost months ago is on the radar three days before Election Day.