Things Looking Up for GOP in N.H.? Sliver of Separation Between Brown and Shaheen

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-N.H.) once-comfortable lead on Scott Brown has been trimmed to a mere 2 percentage points in the latest Granite State Poll.

The Aug. 21 poll, sponsored by WMUR-TV and the University of New Hampshire, found Brown to have closed the gap 44 percent to 46 percent. The numbers represent a 4 percent dip in support for Shaheen and a 6 percent gain for Brown from poll results from July.

Shaheen’s showing could be the result of her alliance with President Obama, as the poll showed that only 38 percent approved of the way Obama is doing his job, while 55 percent disapprove.

In that poll, even the “outsider” Republican candidates Jim Rubens and Bob Smith would show well in a general election against the incumbent senator.

Smith, a former U.S. senator and the most conservative of the potential Republican challengers, garnered the support of 36 percent of respondents in a hypothetical race against Shaheen. Smith’s showing represents a 2 percent climb in support since the July poll.

Rubens polled just a tick below his primary challenger, pulling in 35 percent of the vote in an election against Shaheen. It’s a 5 percent gain for the former state senator since the July poll.

However, neither Smith nor Rubens poll as well as Brown with independents. Brown received 40 percent of independents’ support against Shaheen, who tallied 35 percent of their support. Smith had 26 percent of their support compared to Shaheen’s 38 percent, while Rubens polled at 25 percent compared to Shaheen’s 36 percent.

“The feedback that we are receiving out on the campaign trail is that Rubens' bold solutions to big ideas allow him to contrast well with Shaheen, and position him to beat Shaheen and go to Washington and solve the problems facing our country,” Ruben’s spokesman Brian Tilton said in an email. “This poll, which shows the race between Shaheen and Rubens tightening, speaks to that.”

Smith’s and Rubens’ numbers toe the line of people who held an unfavorable view of Shaheen, which stood at 36 percent. Less than half, 48 percent, said they had a favorable view of the senator. Brown’s favorability ratings remained low, as only 38 percent said they had a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts senator with 36 percent saying they have an unfavorable view.

What remains an issue for both Smith and Rubens is their name recognition throughout the state. Despite each having previous success in the New Hampshire political scene neither candidate is well known in the state, according to the poll. Fifty-nine percent of respondents did not know enough about Smith to have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him. Of Rubens, a whopping 80 percent said they did not know him well enough to form an opinion. They will take on Brown in a primary Sept. 4.

The numbers come after Brown was endorsed, and joined on the campaign trail, by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Brown and McCain held a town hall meeting focused on foreign policy amid turmoil in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine. Brown, it seems, has been making strides in distancing himself from early claims, specifically by Rubens, that he voted with Obama 70 percent of the time.

A Congressional Quarterly analysis found that claim to be mostly accurate. As a freshman senator in 2010, Brown voted with Obama 60.7 percent of the time, but in 2010, his final year, that total was 78 percent.

Shaheen, however, has gotten an endorsement from an unlikely ally. Lifelong Republican Griffin Dalianis, the former co-chair for Veterans for Mitt Romney and Veterans for John McCain, threw his support behind Shaheen in an op-ed for the Nashua Telegraph, a Brown supporter.

In it, Dalianis lauded her record on veterans’ affairs, writing, “[She] puts New Hampshire first, always has and always will. There is no doubt in my mind that she is loyal, trustworthy and takes care of business when things need to get done.”