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August 10, 2008

Union-Leader Backs Stephen

Last week, ex-Rep. Jim Ryun saw his bid for his old Kansas House seat cut short when he couldn't win the Republican primary. Now, the conservative New Hampshire Union-Leader is rooting against another former Republican Congressman facing a primary before he gets a shot at the Democrat who beat him in 2006.

The Union-Leader endorsed former New Hampshire Health and Human Services Secretary John Stephen in an editorial today, choosing the more conservative candidate over former Rep.Jeb Bradley, citing Stephen's rhetoric on reducing spending and Bradley's record during two terms in Washington.

The two Republicans will face off on September 9 for the right to run against Democratic freshman Carol Shea-Porter. Shea-Porter was the surprise winner of the 2006 Democratic primary, and her 51%-49% upset of Bradley was one of the biggest shocks of the year. Stephen and Bradley have faced off before. Running to fill then-Rep. John Sununu's seat in 2002, Bradley survived a crowded primary, while Stephen finished second.

Shea-Porter is seen as one of the most vulnerable incumbents facing re-election this year. While she won even after being outspent in 2006, few states gave Democrats a bigger boost than New Hampshire, a wave the size of which Democrats won't enjoy again this year. The latest poll of the race showed the Democrat in the low 40s, losing to Bradley by a 46%-40% margin and beating Stephen by a 42%-36% spread.

No public polls of the Republican primary electorate have been released, though most political watchers agree Bradley is likely ahead. Still, internal polls for Ryun's campaign showed him leading by wide margins even in the weeks before his defeat at the hands of State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins, meaning Bradley may not have a clean shot at his old seat.

Only former Rep. Anne Northup, running for her old Louisville, Kentucky-based seat, has won her primary so far. She will face freshman Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth in November.