Why New Hampshire could offer a surprise to the Senate


Politics enthusiasts have been saying for weeks that the race for control of the Senate will come down to three or four states: Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, with occasional Arizona. But is this list too limited?

Political history – and a late-in-the-race spending spat – suggest we should broaden our reach. Republicans have a real shot at overthrowing Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan’s seat in New Hampshire.

The context of the race is simple. Hassan won by 0.1 points in 2016. This year, the Democrats spent money in the Republican primary to win the nomination of their favorite opponent, Don Bolduc. He went back and forth on whether President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election.

Early polls after the primary indicated that Hassan was the clear favorite to retain her seat. A super PAC aligned with GOP leader Mitch McConnell later pulled its ad from the race.

But over the past 10 days, the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm has started handing out the money.

What exactly is happening?

A number of pollsters who do not meet CNN’s publication standards have released results indicating a close race, or even a Republican advantage. A close case, however, is what campaigns are seeing in the state.

New Hampshire is exactly the type of seat you might expect Republicans to compete in, given the polls we’ve seen nationally. A CNN/SSRS poll released this week puts Republicans ahead by four points on the generic Congressional ballot. That’s an 8-point shift to the Republicans from the final 2020 presidential result.

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

The competitiveness of the New Hampshire Senate race matches what we see in other congressional races in New York and New England — about 10 House seats held by Democrats are at stake.

In fact, it would be odd if the New Hampshire Senate race weren’t competitive, given all of this data.

It’s unclear exactly how a Republican victory in New Hampshire would affect the Senate map.

One view is that New Hampshire would only be won by Republicans if it was a blowout election across the country. They will not win it if national elections are near.

Another view is that the polling averages in Arizona (where most polls have Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly ahead) and New Hampshire look quite similar. The states are in different parts of the country and demographically distinct. Sometimes survey errors are concentrated regionally and demographically. It is plausible that a query error that affects New Hampshire does not affect Arizona in the same way. And in such a case, the Republicans could win New Hampshire without winning Arizona.

Either way, New Hampshire might give us an early guide to how the Senate race is going. There isn’t much early or mail-in voting in the state, unlike many other Senate seats on the line. We should know relatively early on election night what the vote looks like.

Sure, New Hampshire can sometimes march to the beat of its own drum. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen retained her seat in 2014, even when Republicans easily overthrew the Senate.

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