Although Donald Trump is slightly trailing Hillary Clinton in most polls of New Hampshire voters, there is strong evidence that — even with Clinton carrying the Granite State's electoral votes — Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte will pull off a hard-fought battle for re-election.
"Trump has spent a lot of time and energy here, but he's still behind," former Rep. Charles Bass, R.-N.H., told Newsmax, referring to the latest MassInc/WBUR-TV poll showing Clinton with a three-point spread (41 to 38 percent) over Trump.
The same WBUR poll released last Friday showed Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan in a dead heat with 47 percent of the vote each.
A day earlier, a 7 News poll showed that among likely voters statewide, Ayotte held a slight advantage of 45 to 44 percent.
But Bass pointed out, "Sen. Ayotte is a senator with high approval ratings. She never moved her family to Washington and is here every weekend. And she is becoming a recognized expert on national security. Even in a year in which Democrats win at the top of the ticket, voters here are reluctant to throw out a senator they truly like."
History backs up Bass's point. Only twice since 1938 — with the defeats of Democratic Sens. Thomas McIntyre in 1978 and John Durkin in '80 — has a sitting U.S. Senator lost re-election. (Another senator, Republican Bob Smith, was beaten in 2003 but that was in the primary).
With the revelation of an 11-year-old tape of Trump making crude remarks about women, Ayotte rescinded her earlier endorsement of the Republican nominee.
Hassan's campaign hit that hard, branding as "craven's" Ayotte's sudden reversal of support after making an earlier — statement about why Trump was a role model for children.
Other Republicans in New Hampshire are torn over backing Trump, the big winner in their first-in-the-nation primary earlier this year. Former GOP National Committeeman Ruth Griffin, a venerable fixture in state politics and friend of the Bush family, said there was no way she could support Trump after release of the controversial tape. Present National Committeeman Steve Duprey, who was neutral in the primary, remains committed to Trump.
One of the most spirited of the "never-Trumpers" is former Sen. Gordon Humphrey, a strong backer of John Kasich for president who has long tried to get Trump removed from the ballot.
"Trump is in a death spiral, and is going to pull many good people down with him, I fear," Humphrey told us, "I cannot understand why [GOP National Chairman Reince] Priebus doesn't pull the plug on Trump and save the party. There is still time. I blame Priebus for this disaster equally with Trump."
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