The US Senate race in New Hampshire has narrowed, and Republican Scott Brown is now in a dead heat with incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, according to a new poll.
The Granite State Poll, released Thursday evening, found Brown trailing Shaheen, 44 percent to 46 percent among likely voters, with 9 percent not knowing or undecided in a hypothetical general election matchup. The narrow gap between the two contenders was within the margin of error of the poll, which was sponsored by WMUR-TV and conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
A WMUR survey released early last month and reporting similar numbers to other polls during that period, found Shaheen leading Brown, 50 percent to 38 percent.
Pollster Andrew E. Smith, a political science professor at UNH, said he thought the shift was a result of national trends and had little to do with the candidates’ campaigns.
“I think it’s an Obama drag,” he said. The new WMUR poll found only 38 percent of New Hampshire adults approve of the way President Obama was handling his job, a 7 percentage point drop from about a month earlier, while 55 percent disapprove.
“Neither Brown nor Shaheen had any control of that; they’re just at the mercy of what’s happening nationally,” Smith said.
Still, both campaigns have been working to convey their message to voters. In fact, one of Brown’s campaign themes is tying Shaheen to Obama. Shaheen has sought to portray herself as someone who looks out for New Hampshire first.
“Despite more than $3.5 million in dishonest and negative attacks . . . Jeanne Shaheen is still leading all of her potential opponents because Granite State voters know and trust her,” said Mike Vlacich, Shaheen’s campaign manager, in a statement.
New Hampshire GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn had a different spin on the poll results. “New Hampshire voters are souring on Jeanne Shaheen because she has been an absentee senator who ignores her constituents and votes with President Obama 99 percent of the time,” she said in a statement.
Shaheen and Brown have aired television ads in recent weeks and have been out on the campaign trail. Outside groups have also been making the case for and against each candidate. Two super PACs are set to launch a barrage of TV ads against Brown beginning Friday.
Brown faces a Sept. 9 GOP primary that insiders expect him to win comfortably. And that’s good news for Granite State Republicans, the poll found.
Two of his GOP challengers fare less well in hypothetical matchups against Shaheen among likely voters. Shaheen tops former US senator Bob Smith, 50 percent to 36 percent. She leads former state senator Jim Rubens, 49 percent to 35 percent.
Shaheen’s favorability ratings have dropped, the poll found, but she is still seen more favorably than unfavorably. Forty-eight percent of New Hampshire adults have a favorable view of her, while 36 percent see her unfavorably and 10 percent don’t know, according to the poll.
Thirty-six percent of adults have a favorable view of Brown, while 38 percent have an unfavorable view of him, and 18 percent do not know.
The contours of the race could still change a lot before the Nov. 4 election. Most likely voters still have not definitely decided who they will vote for in the US Senate contest, the poll found.
The survey polled 827 New Hampshire adults, including 609 likely voters, by landline and cellphone between Aug. 7 and 17. The survey of likely voters on hypothetical ballot matchups has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. The survey of adults on favorability and job approval ratings has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Joshua Miller can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.