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N.H. poll finds Democrats narrowly leading Republican challengers for Senate, Congress

Republican Don Bolduc is challenging Democratic US Senator Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire. It's one of three races where Democrats hold narrow leads.

Massachusetts TV viewers could probably guess it after the flood of ads for political candidates aimed not at Bay State residents but at those north of the border: A new poll suggests that New Hampshire once again will feature more competitive elections than any other New England state.

The poll, from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, found that the state’s US Senate contest and both of the state’s congressional contests have Democratic incumbents narrowly leading their Republican challengers. That said, those races could tighten.

The ramifications are huge. With the Senate evenly split and Democrats clinging to a narrow majority in the House, these three races could help determine the power structure in Washington for the next two years.

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Conducted after last week’s primary, the poll found Democratic US Senator Maggie Hassan leading Republican nominee Don Bolduc, a retired Army brigadier general, 49 percent to 41 percent. Libertarian candidate Jeremy Kauffman had 5 percent support and another 5 percent were undecided.

Bolduc has an obvious path toward closing the gap.

While Hassan has 98 percent support among Democrats, Bolduc has 83 percent support among Republicans. He only narrowly won last week’s five-way primary with 37 percent of the vote.

But if Bolduc is able to rally enough of the Republicans who voted for his GOP opponents to join his side, the race could get much closer in the remaining seven weeks before Election Day.

The same dynamic applies in the state’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Manchester, the Seacoast, and the Lakes Region. Two-term Democratic incumbent Chris Pappas leads Republican Karoline Leavitt 50 percent to 43 percent.

Leavitt, too, just won a hard-fought Republican primary. She has 87 percent of Republicans backing her, compared with the 96 percent of Democrats backing Pappas, but could benefit from more Republicans whose candidates lost joining her.

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Possibly the biggest surprise in the poll was that the most competitive race in the state is in the 2nd Congressional District, which is composed of Nashua, the Upper Valley, and the North Country.

Democrat Annie Kuster, if she wins, would be the first Democrat in state history to win a major office six times in a row. But at the moment, she only leads her Republican challenger, Bob Burns, 48 percent to 45 percent, well within the poll’s margin of error.

Burns might be able to close the gap, too. He has 85 percent support among Republicans, while Kuster has 99 percent among Democrats.

The only other New England states that have competitive races are Rhode Island and Maine, each featuring a closely watched contest for governor and Congress.

Interestingly, the Democratic incumbents led in the New Hampshire contests despite the fact that the poll showed all three were viewed more unfavorably than favorably.

In a worrisome sign for the Democrats, the poll also showed that independent voters, who dominate the state’s political makeup, heavily backed the Republican challengers.



James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.