There’s been an interesting, but largely overlooked development in the New Hampshire GOP Senate primary race this week. One of the candidates, Karen Testerman, has dropped out of the race and tossed her support to former Senator Bob Smith, issuing the following statement.

It is time for all of us to put aside pride and focus on our greater GOAL, that of fighting for Family, Faith and Freedom. I will not force our principle-driven primary voters to make a self-defeating choice. After much prayer and consultation, I will step aside to allow Senator Bob Smith to be the ONLY conservative name on the primary ballot.…

Senator Smith has a well-earned reputation of standing firm for our conservative beliefs and values and for fighting Washington to stop their overreach. Bob Smith was TEA Party before it had a name.

I interviewed Ms. Testerman earlier this year during the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference, and she impressed me as being a solid, earnest, conservative candidate. Unfortunately, for all of her good intentions, she seemed to be one voice in a relatively crowded race who was perpetually unable to make serious ground in the fundraising race and break out from the pack. At the same time, I received some odd looks when I reported to various people – including Scarborough’s crew – that the locals weren’t exactly swooning over Scott Brown and he might not be such a shoe-in for the nomination.

How do these two things relate? To find the answer we need look no further than the last round of polling on this race prior to Testerman’s exit. She was never in danger of becoming the frontrunner, but she was pulling a significant percentage of the vote:

NHPoll1

Testerman was getting roughly 18 percent support – not inconsiderable in a four way race. Obviously she can’t force her supporters to go in any particular direction, but if her endorsement carries any weight with them, a fair number of those primary voters may indeed go over to Bob Smith. For his part, Smith was already nearly within the margins for going head to head against Shaheen – down by roughly six – and any significant bump from former Testerman voters could easily put him in the lead.

Analysts still aren’t rating this race as a very likely pickup for the GOP, but other issue related factors may spell trouble for any Senator who – like Shaheen – has been voting on the same side as Barack Obama these past few years. Browsing some of the other results of that poll we find that New Hampshire voters overall oppose amnesty for illegal aliens by a roughly ten point spread. They support the death penalty by a staggering 52-29 margin and they support requiring photo ID for voting at an overwhelming 79-19 clip. The President himself is underwater in the Granite State with 54% disapproval to only 36% support.

All of this spells trouble not only for Shaheen, but for anyone perceived as being soft on conservative issues. So is Brown simply destined to steamroll to the nomination with a pile of out of state money, only to lose to Shaheen later? I still wouldn’t bet the farm on it. We may be seeing more of Bob Smith’s name as the summer wears on and we slowly make our way to the state’s very late, Sept. 9th primary.