Trump bouncing back in New Hampshire?

Has the tide turned yet again in the volatile presidential race? In New Hampshire, even before the cascade of October surprises that have battered the Donald Trump campaign, Hillary Clinton appeared well on her way to an easy win in the WBUR poll series. Today, though, the four-way race has gone back to a near-virtual tie, thanks in part to a bleedout from Gary Johnson to Trump:

Democrat Hillary Clinton leads Republican Donald Trump by just 3 points — 41 to 38 percent. That’s within the poll’s 4.4 percentage point margin of error. Libertarian Gary Johnson is at 11 percent.

New Hampshire is bucking a national trend. The race there is getting tighter, whereas nationally, Clinton has in recent weeks been widening her lead over Trump. The results are surprising to Steve Koczela, the president of MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR.

“In the last couple [of election] cycles, the margin in New Hampshire has been about the same as the margin nationwide, but this poll is a bit divergent from where the national polls have been coming in recently,” Koczela said. “Really, since the first debate, Clinton has widened her lead nationally, but the last couple of phone polls I’ve seen from New Hampshire, it’s been a bit narrower.”

In WBUR’s last New Hampshire poll, conducted in late September, Clinton led Trump by 7 points. Since then, Koczela said, he sees support moving away from Johnson as an increasing number support Trump.

The polling period went from Monday to Wednesday, after both the “grab her by the p****” tape and the second presidential debate, and while accusations of groping emerged that Trump has vehemently denied. Even with all of that as background, Trump has picked up support, going from 38/47 in the binary race and 35/42 in the four-way race to 41/46 and 38/41. Hillary hasn’t gotten a boost at all in the same period, and has had her lead cut in half despite all of Trump’s bad publicity.

What happened? The party-registration balance in the sample is identical to the late-September poll, as is the gender balance; the age and ethnic demos are almost identical, too. It’s not a sample shift, nor a methodology change. It might be a return to initial preferences after the avalanche of bad press.

Notably, Kelly Ayotte has a one-point edge on Maggie Hassan in the same poll for the Senate race. Ayotte repudiated her enthusiasm for Trump, and Democrats thought that they smelled blood in the water. And they weren’t necessarily wrong in that assessment; the poll shows that 61% of respondents supported Ayotte’s decision to withdraw her support after the Access Hollywood video emerged, while only 30% thought she should have continued her support. But that doesn’t translate into opposition to Trump, or to Ayotte. In fact, only 35% of New Hampshire respondents thought Trump should withdraw after the “p****” tape, while 60% said he should continue his campaign — almost the exact same percentage that support Ayotte’s repudiation of Trump. Go figure.

The RCP average isn’t much help here.  Only one other poll in the aggregation was conducted post-tape, and that was UMass/Lowell’s first foray, so there’s no history in that series (Hillary is +6 in that poll). The RCP gap is actually slightly narrowing for the Granite State, at least for the moment. New Hampshire appears to have taken a nuanced approach to support this year.