This year, New Hampshire has what has become an American rarity, a choice between two grown-ups. Ayotte is the state’s former attorney general. Her opponent, Maggie Hassan, 58, is ending her second term as governor. Both women have approximately 100 percent name recognition and benefit from what an Ayotte aide calls “three degrees of separation”: Almost everyone in this small state has, or knows someone who has, met or otherwise had contact with the two.
Which works to Ayotte’s advantage. She is running by running 5K races, bagging groceries, riding all-terrain vehicles in the woods, and generally smothering the state with retail politics. Hassan, whose challenge is to give voters a reason to fire Ayotte, is relying heavily on negative ads, especially ones criticizing Ayotte’s path to her current position of refusing to vote for Trump.
But paid ads often do not dent “three degrees of separation” knowledge. Sixty-four percent of voters say Ayotte’s path to separation from Trump “makes no difference” to them. Last week, UMass Amherst/WBZ released a poll of likely voters, including those “leaning toward” a candidate, showed Ayotte with a 4-point lead. Which must reflect the fact that, in a survey of eight swing states, New Hampshire had the largest portion of voters (9.7 percent) intending to vote both for Clinton and for a Republican Senate candidate.