Ayotte up big in NH Senate race over Hodes

Democrats had hoped to pick up a Senate seat in New Hampshire by running a sitting Congressman to replace retiring Republican Judd Gregg, but the latest Rasmussen survey indicates that their strategy is failing to impress Granite State voters.  Paul Hodes only gets 38% of likely voters, while Attorney General Kelly Ayotte wins more than 50% in what looks like a blowout:

Former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte continues to hold a double-digit lead over Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes in the race for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Granite State shows Ayotte, a Republican, earning 51% support, her best showing to date, while Hodes picks up 38% of the vote. Four percent (4%) like some other candidate in the race, and six percent (6%) are undecided

A month ago, Ayotte posted a similar 49% to 37% lead over Hodes. In five previous surveys stretching back to February, Hodes’ support has remained in the narrow range of 35% to 39%, while Ayotte has captured 46% to 50% of the vote.

The other Republican in the primary, Bill Binnie, also leads Hodes but by a narrower 46/40 margin.  The survey gives Ayotte some good news in what has become a big-money battle.  Binnie poured millions of his own money into the campaign, but Ayotte won an endorsement from Sarah Palin and Binnie got put on the defensive over his brand of conservatism.  Oddly, though, Rasmussen didn’t survey on the primary fight.

Ayotte wins the favorability contest as well, with a 55/33 rating.  Binnie only gets 45/38, still positive and with some upside (16% unsure), but behind Ayotte.  Hodes is barely above water, 46/44.  Among independents — always an important demographic in New Hampshire — the differences are even more pronounced.  Ayotte gets a 67/22 favorability rating, while Binnie does well but falls behind with a 52/34.  Hodes goes underwater with independents at 41/50.

If Binnie wanted to paint himself as more conservative, that effort seems to have failed, too.  Sixty-nine percent of voters think of Ayotte as a conservative, compared to only 53% of voters for Binnie.  At the same time, Ayotte edges Binnie out on being mainstream (54% to 51%, respectively) and are all but tied on the “extreme” measure” (23%, 22%).  Hodes does worse than both, with only 41% seeing him as mainstream and 39% considering him extreme.

Either Republican appears capable of beating Hodes, but it looks like Ayotte has a significant edge.