Leavitt Closes Gap With Pappas in NH First Congressional District
A new poll by AARP New Hampshire shows Republican Karoline Leavitt in a tie with incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas, with less than a month to go before Election Day.
The poll of 1,050 likely voters mostly over the age of 50 and conducted on October 2-6 puts Pappas at 48% and Leavitt at 47%, with a margin of error at 4.4%. A Granite State Poll by the UNH Survey Center right after the primary was 50%-43% for Pappas. The Saint Anselm College Survey Center at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics poll at the end of September also had Pappas in the lead 49%-41%.
Leavitt celebrated the results with a tweet and a call for donations. Dean Spiliotes, SNHU Civic Scholar, founder of NH Political Capital and Seacoast Current's political analyst, wouldn't break out the champagne just yet.
"Both candidates have strong support from their party. What is puzzling to me is that this poll has Leavitt at +5 among independents. The St. Anselm poll from a week ago had independents at +22 for Pappas. Unlikely that it has changed that much in a week or two. Without better understanding that discrepancy, it's hard to know how much gap Leavitt has actually closed," Spiliotes said.
He said that because of New Hampshire's largest amount of undeclared voters, candidates traditionally have to move a little closer to the center politically. This is definitely the case in the First Congressional District and something Pappas did during his 2020 race, picking up moderate Republicans in his native Manchester, according to Spiliotes.
"Typically in New Hampshire, you have to show some ability to build a broader coalition, some sort of reaching out beyond your base. And to the extent that Don Bolduc has tried to do that, he has had difficulty and has tripped himself up. And Karoline Caroline Levitt shows no interest in doing that," Spiliotes said.
In the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Ann Kuster has a 10-point lead over Republican challenger Robert Burns, 53% - 43%.
Incumbents Stay in the Lead
The poll is consistent with the two earlier polls showing the incumbents with leads.
Gov. Chris Sununu maintains a large lead over Democrat Tom Sherman 55%-41% in the AARP poll among all voters, and 56%-40% with voters over age 50. Sen. Maggie Hassan tops Republican Gen. Don Bolduc 52%-45%. The gap narrows among voters age 50+ 50%-47%.
Spiliotes said that if history is any indication, Sherman will close the gap with Sununu in the final weeks, but the campaign will remain the governor's to win.
"The challenge is Sununu has been pretty strategic about positioning himself as somebody who doesn't have any use for political toxicity or the right wing or the left wing," Spiliotes said. "Sununu has been good at kind of separating himself out, not identifying too closely with Trump, kind of pushing back against his own party when it's been helpful for him to show that he's independent."
The AARP poll also showed that voters are pessimistic about the direction of the state and country, with 74% saying the country and 59% the state are headed in the wrong direction.
Former President Donald Trump has a better job approval rating than current President Joseph Biden 54%-45%.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH