October 6, 2009

Behind the numbers: Hodes trails Ayotte

Across the board, President Obama and the Democrats possess a declining brand. Per usual, the Republicans are out-maneuvering their rivals. Politics is rough-and-tumble, and when you have to explain away myths, you’re losing the PR war. The Republicans know that and use it to their advantage.

Here in New Hampshire, we have a unique opportunity to observe a highly competitive race for U.S. Senate. Paul Hodes ‘72, the twice-elected Congressman from New Hampshire’s second district, is vying to replace retiring Senator Judd Gregg. Kelly Ayotte, the state’s former Attorney General, is presumed to be Hodes’ Republican challenger.

A recent poll by the American Research Group puts Ayotte ahead of Hodes by seven points, 41 percent to 34 percent, marginally outside of the poll’s MoE of 4.1 percent. Rasmussen shows similar results, with Ayotte besting Hodes 46 percent to 38 percent.

Looks bad for Hodes, right? Sort of.

First, the bad news. Hodes, who as a sitting Congressman comfortably won reelection in 2008, should be seeing higher numbers - if we control for the current climate. Rasmussen’s internals show Hodes’ net favorability ratings down at -4 percent (19 percent very favorable minus 23 percent very unfavorable). Ayotte fares much better at +16 (22 percent very favorable, 6 percent very unfavorable). Ayotte also enjoys a 17-point lead over Hodes among independent voters.

But not so fast. Looking closer, we would also see that almost half of independent voters in the ARG survey are still undecided. And in a recent poll by UNH, only 6 percent of respondents had decided for whom they would vote.

Curiously – (sarcasm) – the approval numbers for Hodes closely follow trends in public opinion on the economy. As in the 2008 elections, voters are choosing almost exclusively on macroeconomic perceptions. Only 4 percent of residents think the economy is strong, while 47 percent say it’s “poor. “ And voters are marginally pessimistic about the ability of the government to appropriately respond to the crisis; 51 percent fear the government will go too far in trying to fix the economy.

Across the board, the Democrats are suffering from sociotropic views of the economy. ARG shows that 37 percent of residents disapprove of Governor Lynch’s (D) job performance – the same number who disagree with his handling of the economy. Obama faces a similar fate.

Considering the awful assessment of the economy, and that Governor Lynch’s net approval rating is -3 percent, despite the fact that he won reelection with more than 70 percent of the vote, I’m surprised that Hodes’ numbers aren’t worse.

Granted, optimism because the awful news isn’t as bad as it could be seems a bit feeble. Still…

Most voters don’t know for whom they’ll eventually vote. Ultimately, I see this race following broader economic trends. If Democrats generally can exonerate their brand and induce some semblance of economic recovery, Hodes wins. If the economy stays depressed and health care reform fails, Ayotte’s Republican-cum-libertarian message will play well here.

Current prediction: Probability of Hodes winning at 55 percent. (TOSSUP)


  1. Two things. First, since when are you blogging at LGB? Second, remember that Ayotte has state-wide name recognition, whereas Hodes only has CD-02. By this time next year, the name recognition scheme will be very different.

  2. To cross-post from my response to your facebook comment:

    "Yea, but neither enjoys particularly wide name recognition. I'm still giving it to Hodes in a very close race. We'll see what the next twelve months bring."