Two new Public Policy Polling surveys, one in New Hampshire and the other from North Carolina, reveal increased weakness for a pair of Senate Democratic incumbents. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) has been on the vulnerability list for the entire election cycle so her poor showing is not particularly surprising, but New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) has, heretofore, been viewed as a clear favorite.
The New Hampshire situation is becoming interesting because it involves former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R). You will remember that Brown came to national prominence in early 2010 when he won the special Bay State senatorial election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D). Three years later he fell to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in the 2012 regular election, and has since re-located to neighboring New Hampshire where he has clearly been testing the waters for a run against Sen. Shaheen.
The latest PPP poll (Jan. 9-12; 1,354 registered New Hampshire voters) indicates that such a move should not be considered a long shot. Looking at the results, we find the former senator trailing incumbent Shaheen only 43-46 percent despite the fact that he has an upside down personal favorability rating of 34:40 percent positive to negative. The poll also illustrates that the senator has absorbed additional negative opinion on her own job approval score, since she has fallen to 44:43 percent favorable to unfavorable from the previous 49:42 percent recorded in the September 2013 Public Policy Polling survey.
Brown has not committed to entering the race and still has much time before he must publicly declare. The New Hampshire candidate filing deadline is not until June 13 for their Sept. 9 partisan primaries. But, if numbers like these remain consistent, the chances become better than average that Brown will launch a challenge to the first-term senator.
Prior to her election, Shaheen won three two-year terms as governor but lost a 2002 senatorial election to then-Rep. John E. Sununu (R) – the man she would defeat six years later. Overall, the race still must be rated as “Lean Democrat,” but the short term trends are clearly breaking toward the Republicans.
The PPP North Carolina study (Jan. 9-12; 1,384 NC registered voters) now places Sen. Hagan behind every Republican who has entered the race against her. Though the spreads are only one and two points, meaning that the ballot tests are dead heats, the results suggest serious trouble, because Sen. Hagan is merely tying candidates with whom the electorate is not even familiar.
Against House Speaker Thom Tillis, Sen. Hagan trails 43-42 percent; opposite physician Greg Brannon, the Republican margin becomes 43-41 percent; Charlotte pastor Mark Harris also leads her 43-41 percent; and radio talk show host Bill Flynn scores a 44-42 percent advantage.
Another clear vulnerability sign is the senator failing to break 42 percent in any current polling scenario. Obviously, 42 is a long way from an absolute majority, so her low support number coupled with trailing people possessing little to no statewide name ID suggests that the electorate is looking for a different alternative. Furthermore, this same pattern appearing in polling for the past several months validates the results and portends that the senator’s political troubles are real.