Brown tops Smith in N.H. Senate poll; Jeb Bush leads cluster of White House hopefuls
Former Bay State senator Scott P. Brown leads former New Hampshire senator Robert C. Smith in the conservative 54 to 22 percent, according to a Jan. 29-30 Human Events/Gravis poll of 498 registered Granite State voters.
Asked for a preference among possible 2016 GOP presidential candidates, 16 percent chose former Florida governor John E. “Jeb” Bush, followed by 15 percent for New Jersey Gov. Christopher J. Christie with 12 percent for senators Randall H.” Rand” Paul from Kentucky and R. Edward “Ted” Cruz from Texas, said Doug Kaplan, the president Gravis Marketing, the Florida-based polling firm that conducted the survey.
Kaplan said Brown, who lost his Massachusetts Senate seat in 2012 and has moved to New Hampshire, has not declared that he is running to unseat Democratic Sen. C. Jeanne Shaheen, but the deadline for filing for the Sept. 9 primary is June 13.
New Hampshire has a tradition of party-switching in primaries, where undeclared voters can claim a Democratic or Republican ballot, and then resume their undeclared status, he said.
“Brown’s supporters are distributed across Democrats, Independent and Republicans while Smith’s supporters appear to be centered among Independents at 26.4 percent choosing the former New Hampshire senator,” he said. “Unsure voters consist of a plurality primarily of Democrats, 47.6 percent.”
Smith represented New Hampshire in the Senate from 1990 to 2003. After he lost the 2002 Republican primary to John E. Sununu, Smith moved to Florida. In December, he announced that he has moved back to New Hampshire to take on Shaheen.
Brown has not yet announced his intention to run—but, he did drop the “MA” from his Twitter handle.
James W. Pindell, the political director of Manchester’s WMUR-TV, said, “It would be easy for outsiders to misread the dynamic of the budding U.S. Senate Republican primary here. It is more complicated than simply a conservative versus establishment choice.”
Brown’s poll numbers reflect what Pindell is seeing in the state, said the author of the station’s “Political Scoop” blog.
“For one, carpetbagging is not an issue in the primary since both Scott Brown and Bob Smith only became New Hampshire residents in the last month,” he said.
“Ideology is also somewhat a muted issue,” he said.
“Sure, Smith is more conservative on abortion and guns, but Smith also left the Republican primary in his quixotic run for president in 2000 and the endorsed Democrat John Kerry for president in 2004 over George W. Bush, a move he has since apologized for,” he said.
“Brown has not made up his mind to run for Senate, but should he do that he should be considered the frontrunner. Unless Smith or the other candidates, do anything to raise money or build momentum, the Republican nomination will be his to lose,” he said. “At the moment, though, I have yet to talk to a single person who is convinced Brown will actually run.”
Professor Stacy D. VanDeveer, the chairman of the University of New Hampshire political science department, said he was not surprised by Brown’s strength against Smith. “Many Republicans don’t think Smith can win.”
Brown against Shaheen is a more competitive race than Smith or any other GOP candidate, he said. “It seems obvious to me that he can outshine all others in making this a race.”
W. William “Bill” Hutwelker, whose three-year term as the chairman of the Cheshire County Republican Committee ended at the end of 2012, said, New Hampshire is affected by national trends.
“We won the House in the 2010, but we lost it in 2012, and I would attribute it all to the national ticket,” he said.
Hutwelker said Smith has not been a factor in the state for many years and he remembers Smith’s last race in 2002 as being very divisive. “He’s just been gone.”
William C. Bendix, a professor of political science at Keene State University, said there are many of his students from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts, who are conservative or Republican-leaning, are enthusiastic about Brown’s candidacy. “They were disappointed when he lost to Elizabeth Warren.”
In New Hampshire there are very liberal people, very strong conservatives and a significant amount of libertarians, he said. “In one of my classes yesterday, I student pulled out his laptop and there was a big Ron Paul sticker on it.”
Bendix, who moved to the state 18 months ago, said New Hampshire’s political landscape is very interesting. “It is definitely polarized, but not aggressively polarized like other places.”
Students are comfortable expressing themselves, he said. “They have a patience about the political process.”
Pindell said the presidential results in the polls are in synch with what he sees on the ground.
“While Democrats here are a virtual lock behind Hillary Clinton, Republicans don’t have an obvious choice,” he said.
“There are really three big choice areas for Republicans: moderate/establishment, conservative base candidates and libertarian/liberty candidates. There are just a few moderate/establishment candidates like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush so their poll totals look higher,” he said.
“There are many conservative base options like Rick Santorum and Scott Walker so their poll totals are splintered. And there is just one libertarian minded candidate, that being Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. I am surprised that Paul didn’t score higher in this poll,” he said. “As for Jeb Bush, specifically, he hasn’t been in contact with anyone on the ground here, and New Hampshire hasn’t exactly been kind to the Bush family over the years.”