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POLITICS: Campaigns

Republican poll shows Scott Brown leading in New Hampshire

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Michael Barone,New Hampshire,Polls,2014 Elections,Campaigns,Jeanne Shaheen,Scott Brown

Do I believe that former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is leading incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire by a 49-percent to 44-percent margin? I'm dubious. The poll, reported by the Weekly Standard's Michael Warren, was conducted for the Republican Governors Association by a firm unnamed in the Weekly Standard blog post. So it's a partisan poll, subject to discount as such.

In addition, the result is out of line with previous polling in this race, as reported by realclearpolitics.com. In only one of RCP's polls does Shaheen get as low a percentage as the 44 percent she gets here, and in none of them does Brown get more than 44 percent, 5 points lower than in this poll. In addition, the three polls taken in February and March 2014 show Shaheen with 50 to 52 percent. So either this poll is wrong -- or it signals a genuine change in the standings.

Of course, Brown can argue that he has changed the standings before. In the January 2010 Massachusetts Senate race, he trailed Democratic nominee Martha Coakley 50 percent to 41 percent in a Rasmussen poll conducted Jan. 3. Later polls showed Brown gaining, and he won, 52 percent to 47 percent, on Jan. 19.

Brown campaigned as the 41st vote against Obamacare; and soundings suggest Obamacare today is far from a hit in New Hampshire, where only one insurance company is offering policies on the state's health exchange. President Obama carried New Hampshire by a 52-percent to 46-percent margin in 2012; with his national job approval rating down to 44 percent, it is not implausible that a Republican could be leading a Democrat for senator in the state. Not implausible, but not proven.

Let’s see if later polling shows the shift toward Brown that this Republican poll suggests has occurred. Shaheen is a strong candidate, having been elected governor three times and senator once. But she also lost a Senate race, in 2002, when Democratic numbers were not as high as they were when she won in 2008.

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