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NH Sen Poll: Ayotte Holds Lead Over Hodes

A new University of New Hampshire WMUR Granite State poll shows that former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) maintains a lead over Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in the battle for the state's open Senate seat.

General Election Matchup
Ayotte 40 (+1 from last poll, 7/2)
Hodes 33 (-2)
Undecided 25 (+1)

That last poll was taken just before Ayotte resigned and announced her Senate candidacy. It hasn't been the easiest road for her since then, but she still appears to be the strongest Republican candidate against Hodes. The caveat is that only 14 percent of voters have definitely decided on who they'll vote for in one year, or are leaning toward someone.

Hodes 37 -- Lamontagne 28 -- Und 33
Hodes 37 -- Mahoney 28 -- Und 33

Favorable Rating
Hodes 30 / 26
Ayotte 37 / 8
Lamontagne 11 / 7
Mahoney 5 / 3

Gregg 56 / 23
Shaheen 51 / 36

After the jump, favorable ratings for the candidates for New Hampshire's Congressional races.

Continue reading "NH Sen Poll: Ayotte Holds Lead Over Hodes" »

NH Sen Poll: Ayotte And Hodes Neck-And-Neck

A DailyKos/Research 2000 poll of New Hampshire voters shows a close race for Rep. Paul Hodes (D) against two potential Republican opponents, soon-to-be-former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte and former Rep. Charlie Bass.

General Election Matchups
Ayotte 39
Hodes 38
Undecided 21

Hodes 42
Bass 37
Undecided 19

None of the three are well known statewide. Hodes defeated Bass in 2006 in the Second Congressional District; Ayotte was appointed to her post.

Favorability Ratings
Favorable / Unfavorable / No Opinion
Hodes 34 / 21 / 45
Bass 31 / 23 / 46
Ayotte 36 / 13 / 51
Obama 62 / 30 / 8

Democrat John Lynch appears on safe ground if he chooses to seek an unprecedented fourth two-year term as Granite State governor.

Lynch Re-Elect
Vote To Re-elect 61
Consider Alternative 24
Replace 15

The survey of 600 likely voters was conducted July 13-15, and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

N.H. Attorney General Will Resign To Explore Senate Run

New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, today announced her intention to resign so that she can explore a run for the U.S. Senate, the Union Leader reports.

"Recently, many New Hampshire citizens have urged me to run for United States Senate. I appreciate their confidence in me," she said in a statement. "After discussing this matter with my husband, Joe, and our family, I have decided to resign as Attorney General in order to explore a campaign."

She said that the attorney general's office "has a long tradition as a nonpartisan, independent office," and she's resigning to preserve that. Her resignation is effective July 17. "I do not intend to discuss my future plans or politics in any detail until such time as I leave the Attorney General's Office," she said.

Democrats, including the governor who twice appointed her, John Lynch, have tried to pressure Ayotte not to run by holding her to a promise Lynch says she made when he reappointed her, that she would serve out the complete term. Ayotte has not addressed that claim.

If she does indeed run for Senate, it would give Republicans a solid chance to hold retiring Sen. Judd Gregg's (R) seat. Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) is the likely Democratic nominee. A recent poll showed Ayotte narrowly leading him.

UPDATE: The New Hampshire Democratic Party is weighing in with a statement tying Ayotte to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who announced her resignation Friday.

"We're seeing a national trend where Republicans have abandoned their responsibilities to their constituents in favor of political gain," said state party chairman Raymond Buckley. "From Alaska to New Hampshire, Republicans just can't seem to honor their commitment to the public. Not unlike Sarah Palin, Kelly Ayotte has broken her promise to the people she represents and put politics before public service."

Buckley also stated that Hodes will be successful no matter who wins the GOP primary.

NH Sen: Poll Shows Ayotte Leading Hodes (If She Runs)

Courtesy of the University of New Hampshire, we get our first test of how state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (R) polls in a hypothetical matchup for U.S. Senate against Rep. Paul Hodes (D). Ayotte has been the subject of speculation for weeks now, and as other candidates rule themselves out, she may be the best shot Granite State Republicans have to hold onto Judd Gregg's seat in 2010.

General Election Matchup
Ayotte 39
Hodes 35
Undecided 24

Hodes 40
Bass 38
Undecided 20

Hodes 45
Tausch 25
Undecided 29

Former Rep. Charlie Bass (R) has not indicated his plans yet, with the Senate race among his options if he returns to politics. Fred Tausch (R) is signaling he's likely to run, and is now airing TV ads to build his name ID. UNH also tested Hodes against Sununu and found the former senator trailing 43-41; he announced yesterday he would not run for the seat.

Fav/Unfav Ratings
Gregg 53/24
Shaheen 50/36
Hodes 32/23
Ayotte 40/8
Bass 33/23
Tausch 5/4
LaMontagne 5/4

Even Hodes, the second district congressman, has work to do to build his statewide profile. Forty percent of state voters were unfamiliar with Ayotte; the New Hampshire attorney general is an appointed position. Tausch and attorney Ovide LaMontagne, another potential Senate candidate, have almost no statewide profile.

The UNH survey of 558 adults was conducted from June 24-July 1, and had a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.

Sununu Says No To 2010 Comeback Bid

Former Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.), who lost his re-election bid last year to former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D), announced today that he will not run for Sen. Judd Gregg's (R) seat in 2010. Here's his statement:

"Representing New Hampshire in the United States Senate is a great honor, but effective public service is much more than just a desire to hold office. It's essential that the timing fit both personally and professionally.

This year I've made commitments to serve several technology firms, begun working with a number of non-profit policy groups, and continue to serve on the Congressional Oversight Panel for the TARP.

Equally important, campaigns require great sacrifice from family. After running in seven primary and general elections over twelve years, my family still means more to me than anything else. I very much intend to keep it that way."

The statement also notes the many activities keeping Sununu busy, including posts on the boards of Time Warner Cable, Boston Scientific, and ConvergEx Group, serving on the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Treasury's TARP program, and on the Middle East Working Group for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Sununu's decision means that Rep. Paul Hodes (D) is still unopposed, though several Republicans are still considering the race. Washington Republicans are hoping that state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte will enter. Businessman Fred Tausch has also emerged this week as a potential candidate for Republicans, though one New Hampshire blog noted that he donated late last year to Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Granite State Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley said that Sununu's decision "comes as no surprise." "Paul Hodes is a terrific leader with a record of delivering for the people of New Hampshire," he said in a statement. "He is a superb candidate and we are confident that he will be successful in 2010."

NRSC Targets Hodes

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has put out a 45-second web ad targeting Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), who recently announced he was running for Senate in 2010. The NRSC video hits Hodes for voting for "the largest tax hike in history twice" and the economic stimulus.

Newman Will Take Gregg's Senate Seat

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch is set to announce this afternoon that Republican Bonnie Newman will fill the Senate seat being vacated by Judd Gregg, whom President Obama nominated today for Commerce Secretary. The news was first reported by Politico.

Newman served as Gregg's chief-of-staff during his House days in the 1980s, and also held roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. She recently served as interim president at the University of New Hampshire, and now appears likely to serve as just the interim senator. Newman is not expected to run for the seat in 2010, leaving the already-vulnerable seat open.

After electoral gains in the state in recent years, Democrats had placed a bull's eye on Gregg's seat. Democrats won the state in the last two presidential contests, they took over the two House seats in 2006, and Jeanne Shaheen won the other Senate seat in 2008. Not having to run against an incumbent makes it all the more desirable, and one Democrat appears to have already stepped forward.

Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) will likely announce his candidacy this week, the Manchester Union Leader reports.

NH: Shaheen Lead Shrinking?

An AP/GfK poll surveyed 600 likely voters 10/22-26 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Senator John Sununu, Democratic ex-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Libertarian Ken Blevens were tested.

General Election Matchup
Blevens....... 3

A University of New Hampshire poll for WMUR surveyed 652 likely voters 10/25-27 for a margin of error of +/- 3.8%. Shaheen and Sununu were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Shaheen.......50 / 85 / 10 / 36 (+1 from last, 10/26)
Sununu........36 / 6 / 77 / 33 (-2)

A Public Opinion Strategies poll, conducted for the NRSC surveyed 525 likely voters between 10/20-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4.3%. Sununu, Shaheen and Blevens were tested.

General Election Matchup
Shaheen......46 (-1 from last, 10/19)
Sununu.......43 (+2)
Blevens...... 5 (no change)

Republicans think one of their most vulnerable incumbents could be making a comeback, though he still has work to do.

NH: Shaheen, Shea-Porter Lead

Like Colorado, the New Hampshire Senate race tightened this summer before breaking open for Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. A Boston Globe poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire surveyed 725 likely voters 10/18-22 for a margin of error of +/- 3.6%. Senator John Sununu and Shaheen were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Shaheen....49 / 81 / 10 / 45 (+1 from last, 9/08)
Sununu.....36 / 7 / 76 / 27 (-8)

Sununu's precipitous drop in the polls might be explained by his vote in favor of the Senate economic bailout plan, the same reason many believe Chambliss is now in trouble in Georgia. Sununu's New Hampshire colleague, Senator Judd Gregg, was Senate Republicans' lead negotiator on the bill.

The poll also tested Rep. Carol Shea-Porter against GOP ex-Rep. Jeb Bradley in the state's Manchester-based First District (358 LVs, +/- 5.2%) and Rep. Paul Hodes versus GOP radio host Jennifer Horn in the Nashua- and Concord-based Second District (349 LVs, +/- 5.2%).

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Shea-Porter....44 / 77 / 10 / 35 (+2 from last, 9/08)
Bradley........39 / 10 / 76 / 30 (-6)

Hodes..........51 / 80 / 12 / 43 (+13)
Horn...........25 / 7 / 57 / 12 (-1)

The September poll in Hodes' district looks like an anomaly in which pollsters didn't push leaners very hard. In the First District, the NRCC still sees Shea-Porter as a top target.

NH: Shaheen +9

Another poll shows Senator John Sununu in hot water. The Research 2000 poll surveyed 600 likely voters between 9/22-24 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Republican Sununu, ex-Governor Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic nominee, and Libertarian Ken Blevins were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Shaheen....50 / 84 / 11 / 53 / 46 / 54
Sununu.....41 / 8 / 78 / 39 / 46 / 36
Blevins.... 2 / 1 / 2 / 3 / 3 / 1

The Senate candidates are essentially tied in the more conservative First District, which includes Manchester and the Seacoast. But Shaheen leads by a huge 56%-37% margin in the Second District, which takes in Nashua, the north country and the state's western counties along the Vermont border.

NH: Shaheen +4

At least one pollster thinks Republican Senator John Sununu's advertising blitz has been effective. A new Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, surveyed 523 likely voters between 9/14-21 for a margin of error of +/- 4.3%. Sununu and ex-Governor Jeanne Shaheen were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Shaheen....48 / 87 / 7 / 42 / 43 / 52 (+2 from last, 7/08)
Sununu.....44 / 7 / 86 / 39 / 48 / 40 (+2)

It's the second time in a row the UNH poll has showed Sununu within striking distance, while earlier surveys had the first-term senator trailing by double digits. Sununu held his fire for a long time before unleashing a barrage of advertisements in recent weeks, and while that strategy was initially questioned by political observers, it may be paying off in a state many thought would easily go Democratic in November.

Sununu will also benefit from the elimination of straight-ticket voting. In 2007, Democrats eliminated straight-ticket voting even after it swept them to power in both houses of the state legislature the year before. Now, voters will have to go race by race, allowing what is expected to be significant split-ticket voting between the uncompetitive race for governor and the highly competitive Senate and Presidential contests.

NH: Shaheen +12

Even as other polls show a tighter race amid a new GOP advertising blitz, former Democratic New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen retains her sizable lead over incumbent Senator John Sununu, according to a new poll.

The poll, conducted by American Research Group, surveyed 600 likely voters between 9/13-15 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Sununu and Shaheen were tested among a sample made up of 30% Republicans, 28% Democrats and 42% independents and others.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Shaheen.....52 / 82 / 13 / 59 (no change from last, 8/08)
Sununu......40 / 6 / 80 / 35 (-1)

ARG, a firm that has done work for Republican candidates in the past, has had a bit of an erratic year with the New Hampshire Senate race. Polls that look like outliers on both sides have showed Sununu leading by eleven points, in December 2007, and Shaheen up by as much as twenty-two, in July.

But the last two ARG surveys have each showed Shaheen with a low-double digit lead. Both candidates are up with television advertisements, as are the Democratic and Republican senatorial committees.

NH: Shaheen +2

New Hampshire Republican Senator John Sununu trails former Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen by two points in his bid for a second term, a new survey for the National Republican Senatorial Committee finds. But having trailed by double digits throughout the cycle, Sununu's campaign has to be happy with anything approaching a deficit within the margin of error.

The poll, conducted for the NRSC by Public Opinion Research, surveyed 500 likely voters between 9/2-3 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Sununu, Shaheen and Libertarian Ken Blevens were tested.

General Election Matchup

Both Shaheen and Sununu enjoy good favorable ratings. The Democrat is seen favorably by 53% of voters, while 37% see her unfavorable; Sununu has a 50% favorable to 36% unfavorable rating.

Public Opinion Strategies' polling memo suggests the fundamentals of the race have changed now that both candidates are advertising on television (Sununu waited for a long time before unleashing his first ads).

But there's no getting around the fact that the Republican poll shows significantly different results than other non-partisan polls. If Sununu's advertisements start to move forthcoming independent polls, national Republicans may become more confident about a seat that once looked almost out of reach.

NH: Shaheen +11

Former Democratic New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen is at the top of Democrats' list of Senate takeover opportunities, but the newest poll out of the Granite State will do something to aleviate Republican heartburn. Still, Shaheen, the poll shows, is maintaining her big lead in her repeat race against Republican Senator John Sununu, and Democratic Governor John Lynch is cruising toward a third term.

The poll, conducted by American Research Group, a Republican firm, surveyed 600 likely voters between 8/18-20 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Sununu and Shaheen were tested, along with Lynch and his Republican opponent, State Senator Joe Kenney.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Shaheen......52 / 87 / 10 / 61 (-6 from last, 7/21)
Sununu.......41 / 7 / 81 / 33 (+5)

Lynch........58 / 91 / 28 / 58 (-2)
Kenney.......32 / 5 / 64 / 26 (+5)

In a state full of independent voters, Shaheen maintains her huge lead among those not affiliated with either party. But Sununu has cut Shaheen's twenty-two point lead from late July. That July poll may have been an outlier, though, as it showed the largest lead for Shaheen since a poll from June 2007. More recent polls have showed the Democrat with a low-double figure lead.

One major factor continues to be Sununu's lack of significant advertising. It's not because of a shortage of funds; the first-term Republican has plenty of money in the bank, suggesting he is saving his warchest for a major post-Labor Day push.

Lynch, meanwhile, has proven a popular governor during his first two two-year terms. Republican efforts to recruit stronger candidates, including Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, were unsuccessful.

Shaheen It All Before

We're starting to get the feeling that we've seen this script before: Incumbent Republican Senator faces top-tier Democratic recruit in a blue state in a Democratic year, trails consistently in the polls and, in a completely unsurprising twist at the end, gets thumped in November. If you're New Hampshire Senator John Sununu, just ask Rick Santorum how it goes.

A new survey, conducted by Manchester-based American Research Group, polled 600 likely voters between 6/13-17 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Sununu and former Governor Jeanne Shaheen were tested.

General Election Matchup
Shaheen........54 (+7 from last, 3/21)
Sununu..........40 (+7)

Virtually every poll this year, save one ARG poll that looked like a rare outlier, has showed Shaheen leading by an easy margin. That's the way it was in Pennsylvania in 2006, when Bob Casey led incumbent Senator Rick Santorum from post to pole, also by a big margin, as Roll Call's Nathan Gonzales wrote yesterday.

Perhaps the only good sign for Sununu is that John McCain will make the state a priority. But on the ground, no state swung more towards Democrats than New Hampshire did in 2006: Democrats took over both chambers of the state legislature and kept the governor's mansion (Governor John Lynch was re-elected by the widest margin in state history), a feat they had not pulled off since the early 20th century. The party also took back both the state's House seats, and at least one of those new members, Rep. Paul Hodes, looks like a safe bet for re-election this year.

Sununu's team will continue to assure the media and supporters that the wide gap between the two will close as the campaign heats up. But that's the mantra Santorum backers chanted in 2006, and it didn't work for him. Sununu may have to do something dramatic to keep his seat.

Shaheen Still Up In NH

The rematch between former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen and incumbent Republican Senator John Sununu has reached a consistent plateau, as a new poll shows. Shaheen is clearly ahead, and by a wide margin. Both candidates are raising huge sums of money, and Sununu, who has been conspicuously absent from the campaign trail, can take solace from the fact that voters have yet to seriously tune in.

The Granite State Poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center between 4/25-30, surveyed 456 likely voters for a margin of error of 4.9%. Both Shaheen and Sununu were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Shaheen 52 / 86 / 14 / 52 / 48 / 57 (-3 from last, 2/08)
Sununu 40 / 10 / 78 / 33 / 47 / 35 (+3)

Despite the movement toward Sununu, it's now been nearly a year since the first time the two candidates were matched up, and in all four surveys Shaheen has led by double digits and scored more than 50% of the vote. Sununu is the least popular of the three politicians tested -- 48% view him favorably, while 37% see him unfavorably. That compares with senior Senator Judd Gregg's 52%-27% favorable to unfavorable ratio, and Shaheen's 56%-29% number.

Shaheen, too, has out-campaigned the incumbent so far. With frequent stops throughout the state, Shaheen has stood in marked contrast to Sununu, who has yet to establish a serious campaign presence. Even calls from the media are returned by a spokeswoman in Washington. Sununu has time to claw back, but he had better start soon.

NH Senate Poll Seesaws

Former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen is back atop a Republican-leaning poll in her rematch against GOP Senator John Sununu, three months after the same survey showed Sununu leading by a healthy margin. The survey once again reasserts Shaheen as a top Democratic takeover opportunity.

The poll, taken by American Research Group, a Republican-leaning firm that has done work for former GOP congressmen in the state, was conducted 3/14-17 among 541 registered voters. 30% of the sample was made up of Republicans, 29% of Democrats and the remaining 41% of undeclared voters. Shaheen and Sununu were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Shaheen 47 / 76 / 1 / 61 (+6 from last, 12/07)
Sununu 33 / 12 / 81 / 13 (-19)

The poll is a dramatic departure from December, when Sununu led by eleven points, a survey that was at odds with every other poll out at the time. Most have suspected that Shaheen leads by a wide margin, as another well-respected polling institution showed in February. Nothing in particular has happened in the last three months that would have robbed Sununu of so much support, making the December poll seem like an outlier.

Shaheen raised money at a very fast clip in the fourth quarter, finishing the year with $1.1 million, though she still trailed Sununu's $3.4 million in the bank. National Democrats are sure to play heavily in New Hampshire, which will also be a crucial presidential battleground state. And Shaheen faces a simply better landscape: After veering to the right in 2002, no state has experienced an anti-Republican backlash quite like New Hampshire. Just ask the Republican governor, two Republican members of Congress and eighty-something state legislators who are no longer in office thanks to the 2006 Democratic wave.

Added to Virginia and New Mexico, where Democrats are strongly favored to take over GOP-held seats, Shaheen's chances in New Hampshire start to paint a picture of a large Democratic majority after November. Still, the party seems likely to come up short of the magic number 60, unless they can find a way to win every competitive state and miraculously pull out upsets in places like Oklahoma and Mississippi. The Democratic Party looks in good shape this year, especially in New Hampshire, but wins in those two states seem a stretch, to say the least.

Shaheen Keeps Big NH Lead

Former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen has a big lead over Republican Senator John Sununu, a new University of New Hampshire poll shows, maintaining favorable ratings well above the incumbent's in an effort to win a rematch from the pair's 2002 battle.

The survey, taken between 1/18-27, interviewed 555 adults about the Senate race, for a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. Sununu and Shaheen, along with senior Senator Judd Gregg, were surveyed.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Shaheen 55 / 85 / 11 / 54 / 50 / 59 (+1 from last poll, in 9/07)
Sununu 37 / 5 / 84 / 32 / 44 / 30 (-1)

Sununu's favorable rating has jumped six points from the last poll, to 46%, while his unfavorables decreased slightly. Shaheen's numbers barely changed, though at 57% favorable, she enjoys a much better statewide brand than her opponent. By contrast, Gregg is viewed favorably by 50% of the electorate, while 25% view him unfavorably. That could bode well for Democrats when they next face Gregg on the ballot: His favorable ratings topped 60% in April 2006, while his unfavorables have grown steadily from 15% in the same poll.

In better news for Shaheen, she leads in every one of the state's regions. Typically Republican North Country voters favor their former governor by a 58%-39% margin, while Sununu is even losing the heavily Republican Connecticut Valley by a 3-point margin, 47%-44%. Shaheen holds big leads in the voter-rich Manchester area, 52%-36%, and on the Seacoast, 62%-28%.

Even the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee should be happy with the poll. Both freshmen incumbent Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes enjoy high favorable ratings, though sample sizes in each district number slightly below 300, making for a large margin of error. Shea-Porter is viewed favorably by a 43% to 17% margin, while her 2006 opponent, former Rep. Jeb Bradley, who is seeking re-election, has a slimmer 38%-25% favorable-to-unfavorable margin. Hodes is seen positively by 37% while just 18% say they view him unfavorably.

NH Bank Accounts Swell

Democrats hoping to pick up a Senate seat this year have few better options than in New Hampshire. Six years ago, Senator John Sununu barely snuck by then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen. This year, Shaheen is back, and given the strong Democratic tilt the Granite State took on in 2006, she looks like the early favorite.

Shaheen, who announced her bid in the fourth quarter, raised an impressive $1.2 million for the period ending on the last day of the year, Politico reports. She has some catching up to do, as Sununu ended September with $2.1 million in the bank.

Senate Republicans gave Sununu a little boost of their own, elevating him this week to a seat on the Senate Finance Committee to replace Senator Trent Lott, who resigned last month. That perch should give the freshman Senator another valuable platform from which to rake in the big bucks.

One thing is clear: Saturating the media market in New Hampshire is an expensive proposition. A single point in the Boston/Manchester media market runs at $527, and while Portland and Burlington markets are less expensive -- $91 and $76 per point, respectively -- they're still important markets to hit. Both cover prime Republican territory; the Portland market covers the northern portion of the state, while Burlington stations are beamed into the western corner, which also covers Democratic strongholds around Hanover.

Full coverage in the Boston/Manchester market -- that is, 2,000 points for a week -- will run a campaign just over $1 million. That market covers about 80% of the state's population. Add to that special interest group spending and money from the party committees, both of which, as John Ensign suggested, have their eyes on the seat, and the tiny Granite State looks set to shape up as one of the most expensive races in the country.

Updating The Exchange

We're updating our Senate race rankings today, which we have failed to do since late September. If you take one lesson from the list, it's that Democrats are in even better position than they were a few months ago: More seats are open, more pickups are possible and the party is still outraising its Republican counterparts.

Still, watch the middle tier races: Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) are in trouble, but they seem with each passing day to be getting safer. All three are bucking Republican leadership at times, and while Democrats have good candidates against each, the difference between a bad year for the GOP and a terrible year will be the difference between these three surviving or failing.

Races we considered for the number 10 spot: Kentucky, where Democrats are hungry for the potential to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has a lot of money, though, and in a presidential year, as Kentucky goes for the GOP nominee, it's hard to imagine any but the best candidate (Rep. Ben Chandler?) having so much as a snowball's chance of beating McConnell. Polls show Chandler and State Auditor Crit Luallen performing well against the incumbent, but both have said they won't run. South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson is still recovering from a stroke, should be a good opportunity for Republicans. So far, though, they have only managed to recruit a State Representative who reported just $37,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter, nowhere close to Johnson's $2 million account. Because of his health troubles, Johnson had been a retirement threat. But he announced his re-election bid in mid-October, and with an underfunded challenger, he will likely sail to another six year term in 2008.

(Correction: We wrote that State Representative Joel Dykstra had raised $37,000 in the third quarter. In fact, he raised $82,000 in the third quarter and retained $37,000 cash on hand. We regret the error and any resulting confusion.

Races we dropped from the Exchange: South Dakota, Nebraska.

Races we added to the Exchange: New Mexico, Mississippi

As always, agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts. And don't forget to head over to RCP's Fantasy '08 to trade contracts based on your own rankings.

10. Mississippi (R-Open): Resigning Sen. Trent Lott is leaving big shoes to fill, and Republicans might actually have some trouble filling them. As Gov. Haley Barbour looks around for a Republican to hold the seat, Rep. Roger Wicker is seen as the front-runner. Wicker has plenty of cash on hand, giving him a lead over any potential Democratic opponent. Democrats are working on former Attorney General Mike Moore and former Gov. Ronny Musgrove, both of whom would be top picks to steal the seat. But any Democrat will find it difficult, if not impossible, to win in this most ruby red of states. If someone like Hillary Clinton is at the top of the ticket, subtract five more points from the eventual Democratic nominee. (Last: Not ranked)

9. Alaska (R-Stevens): If your home is raided by the FBI, guilty or not, it's probably time to call it a career. Indeed, if Ted Stevens is actually the GOP nominee, this race will move higher up on Democrats' priority list. The DSCC is doing all it can to recruit Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Other Republicans are said to be interested in a run for the seat, whether or not Stevens makes a bid. If Stevens is no longer in office, the state will have lost both its long-time Senators since 2002, while Rep. Don Young is tied up in the same scandal involving VECO Corp. Without Young, the state's position in Congress will be significantly impacted. In fact, should Stevens and Young run for re-election, that's likely to be a central tenant of their campaign. But will voters want seniority or new elected officials, like Gov. Sarah Palin, who aren't viewed as corrupt? (Last: 10)

8. Maine (R-Collins): Susan Collins was supposed to be this year's Lincoln Chafee: Popular and moderate, but a Republican in a very blue state. Democrats got their best possible candidate in Rep. Tom Allen, but polls in October have showed Collins holding consistently huge leads of twenty points or so. The race is going to tighten, and Allen is going to have the money to compete. But to the NRSC's relief, Collins is in great position a little less than a year out. Watch her rely heavily on her friend and colleague, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, if the race narrows. (Last: 6)

7. Minnesota (R-Coleman): Comedian Al Franken and wealthy attorney Mike Ciresi both say they will abide by the results of a convention among Minnesota Democrats. But several times over the last few years, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has faced nasty fights in post-convention primaries as candidates fail to live up to their promises. If Franken and Ciresi duke it out in a primary, Franken is likely to win but come away severely wounded. In a general, many will say that Franken is simply too goofy to be a Senator. But he's acting serious, and Minnesota is the same state that elected Jesse Ventura as governor. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, to his credit, is apparently taking the threat seriously. One thing to watch: The Democratic convention in Denver will likely help Mark Udall (see number 5, below). With a badly damaged GOP brand, will the Republican convention being held in Minneapolis be a good thing or a bad thing for Coleman? The answer might determine whether he gets re-elected. (Last: 8)

6. Oregon (R-Smith): Democrats are coalescing around House Speaker Jeff Merkley, though he still faces attorney Steve Novick in a primary. Merkley, who has his sights set on incumbent Gordon Smith, faces an uphill battle: Smith is doing all he can to inoculate himself from charges that he might, in fact, be a Republican. Smith has turned against the war in Iraq, recently voted for cloture on the farm bill, something 45 Republicans voted against, and makes his opposition to the Bush Administration known at every turn. But he is a Republican in a blue state during a presidential year. Merkley will need some national help if he is to compete with Smith on a financial level, but this year, that is not impossible. (Last: 5)

5. Colorado (R-Open): Rep. Mark Udall is hoping to build on a Democratic foundation that has overtaken this increasingly purple state in recent years. Democrats now control the state legislature, the majority of the Congressional delegation and the governor's mansion, and Udall hopes to take back a second Senate seat from retiring Sen. Wayne Allard. Republicans recruited previous Senate candidate and former Rep. Bob Schaffer, and while he's not the party's perfect candidate, he spent the summer raising good money and, to the surprise of many, was within one point of Udall in a mid-September poll. Still, with the Colorado landscape favoring Democrats so much, Udall remains the favorite. This is a district where the DSCC's huge money advantage over the NRSC could come into serious play. (Last: 3)

4. Louisiana (D-Landrieu): Down on the Bayou, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is undeniably in trouble. A Zogby poll taken for the two-term senator's challenger, Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, a former Democrat, shows Kennedy up by seven points. That's not a huge margin for an internal poll, but any survey that shows an incumbent trailing a challenger is significant news. Landrieu had more than $3.4 million cash on hand after the third quarter, while Kennedy hadn't begun raising money. Still, the Democrat who lost several hundred thousand members of her base remains the Republicans' best target for a pickup. (Last: 4)

3. New Hampshire (R-Sununu): A poll in early October showed the rematch between Republican Sen. John Sununu and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen overwhelmingly favoring Shaheen, the Democrat. Shaheen faces no primary and will benefit from her organization, which has stayed largely intact since her departure from the governor's mansion. Gov. John Lynch, a close ally, has kept that organization in good practice, winning with a higher percentage of votes than any governor in the state's history in 2006. Lynch is unlikely to get a strong challenger in 2008, and after the Democratic wave that swept the state last year, Shaheen remains a favorite to take the seat back for Democrats. (Last: 1)

2. New Mexico (R-Open): If Republicans can get bad news about New Mexico, bet that they will. When Sen. Pete Domenici announced his retirement, moderate Albuquerque Rep. Heather Wilson looked like a great candidate to retain the seat for the GOP. Then, dominoes started falling: Conservative Rep. Steve Pearce joined Wilson in the GOP primary. Rep. Tom Udall, a popular Democrat who will be well-funded, reconsidered his earlier decision not to run and jumped into the race, giving the party their strongest candidate to take the seat. But Udall's path wasn't entirely clear: He faced Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez in the primary. Until, that is, Chavez dropped his bid, giving Udall a clear shot. News can't get any worse for Republicans in New Mexico. But if it can, it probably will. (Last: Not ranked)

1. Virginia (R-Open): Mark Warner seems headed straight for the Senate, even if he faces another former governor in the general election. Polls repeatedly show Warner beating Jim Gilmore by twenty points or more, and there's a simple reason: Gilmore was elected when Virginia was a Republican state. Warner helped nudge the state to purple status, where it currently resides. After Gilmore forced Northern Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, a moderate, out of the race, Virginia Republicans will struggle to appeal even to GOP-leaning independents. The party can all but kiss the Senate seat goodbye. (Last: 2)

GOP In Trouble In NH

In 2006, few states felt the anti-Republican backlash as much as New Hampshire. The party lost both its GOP House members as well as majorities in both state legislative chambers, all as Democratic Gov. John Lynch cruised to a record-breaking re-election.

The reversal of fortune came after a 122-year drought in which Democrats could not hold the state legislature and the governorship. It was so bad for Democrats, Froma Harrop wrote last week, that the party once recruited a homeless man to run for office just to have a name on the ballot.

With Sen. John Sununu on the ballot next year, along with his 2002 rival, former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, Democrats have another chance to pick up seats in the Granite State in 2008. Shaheen leads Sununu by wide margins in recent polls, and many call the seat one of Democrats' top opportunities of the year.

One indicator to watch: What percentage of independent voters choose Democratic ballots during the state's January 8th primary? In 2000, a large majority took a Republican ballot, helping Sen. John McCain win big and rejuvenating his campaign. This year, though, speculation is mounting that a vast majority of the undeclared will pick up a Democratic ballot.

Who that benefits in the presidential race is probably still up for debate. But one thing is certain: Unless he can win back Independents, Sununu is in for a bad year, likely on par with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's awful 2006.

Senate Fundraising Numbers

Senate numbers trickle in slower than House numbers, as Senate candidates file with their chamber's Sergent at Arms, which then forwards the numbers to the FEC, rather than electronically, as House candidates do. Still, top candidates in important races brag of their success. Here are the numbers we've compiled for our top-ten Senate races to watch, with New Mexico added on for good measure. Results in alphabetical order:

Alaska (Anchorage Daily News)
Ted Stevens (R): $463k raised, ~$1.2m cash on hand

Colorado (Courtesy Rocky Mountain News)
Mark Udall (D) $1.05m raised, $3.1m cash on hand
Bob Schaffer (R): $786k raised, $1.16m cash on hand

Louisiana (Politics Nation reporting)
Mary Landrieu (D): $857k raised, $3.4m cash on hand
(State Treasurer John Kennedy has not yet entered the race)

Maine (Bangor Daily News gets credit)
Susan Collins (R): $1m raised, $3.1m cash on hand
Tom Allen (D): $666k raised, $2.1m cash on hand

Minnesota (Hat tip, Star-Tribune)
Al Franken (D): $1.89m raised, $2.45m cash on hand
Norm Coleman (R): $1.7m raised, $5m cash on hand
Mike Ciresi (D): $307k raised, $607k cash on hand

Nebraska (The Hill article and Politics Nation reporting)
Jon Bruning (R): $225k raised, $1m cash on hand
Bob Kerrey (D): $342k cash on hand
(Note: Kerrey's numbers are left over from his last Senate bid. He has not formally closed his campaign committee, nor has he declared an intent to run in 2008. Former Gov. Mike Johanns launched his campaign last week, after the filing period had closed)

New Hampshire (Thanks, Union Leader)
John Sununu (R): $701k raised, $2.7m cash on hand
Jeanne Shaheen (D): $188k raised, $178k cash on hand
(Note that Shaheen began raising money two weeks before the filing period ended)

New Mexico (Nice work, Las Cruces Sun-News/AP)
Heather Wilson (R): $240k raised, $755k cash on hand
Steve Pearce (R): $251k raised, $582k cash on hand
Don Wiviott (D): $130k raised, $371k cash on hand
(Note: Wilson announced for the seat after the filing deadline had closed. Pearce has not yet announced his plans. Fundraising results are for both of their House committees, all of which they could transfer into a Senate race)

Oregon (Again, The Hill)
Gordon Smith (R): $825k raised, $4m cash on hand
Jeff Merkley (D): ~$300k raised, $200k cash on hand
Steve Novick (D): ~$300k raised, $200k cash on hand

Virginia (Per The Hill and Politics Nation reporting)
Mark Warner (D): $1.1m raised, $1m cash on hand
Tom Davis (R): $220k raised, $1m cash on hand
(Note that Warner began raising money in mid-September, while Davis has not officially entered the race; Davis' fundraising numbers reflect money in his House account that he can transfer to a Senate bid. Former Gov. Jim Gilmore has yet to officially enter the race and has not opened a federal campaign account.)

South Dakota (AP and Sioux City Journal)
Tim Johnson (D): $450k raised, $2m cash on hand
Joel Dykstra (R): $82k raised

Shaheen Keeps Big Lead

Though two recent polls showed Sen. John Sununu trailing by narrow margins, a new Granite State Poll by the University of New Hampshire shows former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen with the same commanding lead she help several months ago. UNH's Survey Center, headed by Dr. Andy Smith, conducted the poll, sponsored by CNN and WMUR-TV, between 9/17-24. 508 adults were surveyed, with a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. In the state's First Congressional District, 230 adults were surveyed (+/- 6.5%) and 278 respondents came from the Second District (+/- 5.9%).

General Election Matchup
Shaheen 54 / 82 / 15 / 63 / 53 / 55 (nc from last, in 7/07)
Sununu 38 / 9 / 26 / 79 / 42 / 35 (nc)

For comparison, the poll also surveyed the state's senior Senator, Judd Gregg.

(Note: Change from last poll is fav rating only)
Shaheen 56 / 25 (-4)
Gregg 49 / 26 (+1)
Sununu 40 / 37 (-3)

House Fav/Unfav
(Respective districts only)
Ex-Rep. Jeb Bradley 42 / 26 (nc)
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter 33 / 21 (-6)
Rep. Paul Hodes 35 / 16 (+1)

Last week, we ranked New Hampshire as Democrats' number-one pickup opportunity. With a 16-point lead over an incumbent, Shaheen is in strong position, to say the least. Still, Democrats have to guard against being overly optimistic with the race. Having Gov. John Lynch at the top of the ticket, and his organization working in the background, will go a long way to keep everyone's eye on the ball.

Shaheen's Path Gets Easier

Former Congressional candidate and daughter of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) Katrina Swett, once seen as a strong candidate in the New Hampshire Democratic Senate primary, will drop out on Friday in order to back former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, Boston Globe's James Pindell reports.

Swett had raised more than $1.2 million so far for her bid, but now she joins Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand on the sidelines, backing Shaheen. Professor and former astronaut Jay Buckey remains in the Democratic race and promises to give Shaheen a fight.

UPDATE: The NRSC has launched "The Shaheen Record," an anti-Shaheen website.

Shaheen Leads Early, Not Overwhelmingly

Former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who last week stepped down from her post as Director of the Harvard Institute of Politics to seek a rematch with Sen. John Sununu, got some good news thanks to a new American Research Group poll, out today, though Sununu can claim the poll as a shot in the arm for him as well.

Six years ago, Sununu beat Shaheen 51%-47%. Now, ARG, a New Hampshire polling firm that has done work for Republican candidates in the past, shows Shaheen in the lead:

General Election Matchup
Shaheen 46 / 8 / 88 / 46 (-11 from last poll, in 6/07)
Sununu 41 / 80 / 7 / 35 (+12)

Polls earlier this summer showed Sununu trailing by huge margins, including 57%-29% in June's ARG poll and 54% to 38% in University of New Hampshire's Survey Center poll.

Is a poll showing a much narrower race an outlier? Is it further evidence that once a potential candidate becomes an actual candidate, their support drops? Look for another poll, from UNH, in the very near future.