KEY POINTS OF THIS ARTICLE
– Republicans are still looking for a challenger for Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) after the governor. Chris Sununu (R-NH) surprisingly gave up racing her the following year.
– Sununu’s decision to run for re-election means Republicans are strong favorites to keep New Hampshire governorate.
Table 1: Crystal ball government rating change
The relapse of Sununu
Republicans basking in the glow of their strong election rallies last week received rare negative political news Tuesday morning when the governor. Chris Sununu (R-NH) – arguably the party’s most prominent Senate recruit – has surprisingly decided not to challenge first-term Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in next year’s Senate elections.
WMUR reported later Tuesday, the likely second choice of National Republicans for the nomination, former Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), would also not run. Ayotte lost to Hassan by just 1,017 votes in 2016. In addition, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (R) also indicated that he is not likely to run. Brown, who credibly challenged Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in 2014 after losing her nomination for re-election to current Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in 2012, said the attention of his family is on the Congressional nomination of his wife, Gail Huff Brown (R), who is one of many contenders for the Republican nomination in the state’s 1st Congressional District.
As of now, Hassan’s only major challenger is retired Army General Donald Bolduc (R), who lost the primaries for his 2020 GOP Senate nomination. We don’t believe national Republicans see him as a high-level challenger.
Sununu’s surprise announcement reminds us that we shouldn’t assume someone is running around an office until that person clearly indicates that they are indeed running. We’d been telegraphing for months our intention to shift our New Hampshire rating from Leans Democratic to Toss-up if Sununu entered the race, but we were waiting for an announcement. That’s why we kept New Hampshire at Leans Democratic last week even though … moved Three more Senate seats held by Democrats, those in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, in Toss-up. With Sununu out and Ayotte and Brown sticking to the guidelines, we will keep New Hampshire at Leans Democratic for now. Candidate quality is arguably more important to Republicans in the Granite State than it is in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada simply because New Hampshire is a more federally democratic state: Joe Biden won the state by 7 points in the 2020, while only the other 3 states won by 0.3, 0.2 and 2.4 points respectively. However, next year’s political environment may be bad enough for the Democrats that a Sununu-level challenger may not be needed to beat Hassan.
There is still plenty of time for more candidates to emerge in the Granite State. The deadline for submitting candidates is not until next June before the primary on September 13, one of the last in the nation. We cannot rule out the possibility that one of the aforementioned bigwigs (Sununu, Ayotte or Brown) changes his mind and decides to run, although, as Sununu is running for re-election for governor, we must assume that he has completely closed the door on a ‘ offer to the Senate.
Meanwhile, a bad development for the National Republican Senatorial Committee is a good development for the Association of Republican Governors. Sununu’s decision to run for another term will likely take that race off the board for next year, and we’re moving the New Hampshire government race from Leans Republican to Safe Republican. While Sununu’s approval rate isn’t as strong lately as it was before, it overtook Donald Trump last year (see Map 1) and is likely strong enough to deter a credible democratic challenge.
Map 1: Results across the state of New Hampshire in 2020
We will revisit this assessment if a major democratic challenger emerges. One person to watch in New Hampshire is Rep Chris Pappas (D, NH-1). It looks like the New Hampshire Republicans will make its swing district less democratic, possibly turning it into a seat won by Trump, which would make it incredibly vulnerable next year. Perhaps this could prompt him to run for another office, including that of governor.
Meanwhile, Map 1 also reminds us that New Hampshire is a state where voters can still split their tickets, and the state has often proven to be historically fluctuating. Hassan is still vulnerable next year, but he is one of the few Democrats who has seen his prospects for next year actually improve in the past few days.