Sabatos Crystal Ball

New Hampshire Races

House Outlook for 2008

Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?

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New Hampshire (01)

Outlook: Toss-up


September 16, 2008 Update:

Primary losses by incumbents in Maryland and Utah taught observers that an anti-Washington wind was blowing through the 2008 electorate. The nomination of outsider Lynn Jenkins over deposed Representative Jim Ryun confirmed this conventional wisdom. But the hard-fought, four point victory of former Congressman Jeb Bradley over insurgent former Health Secretary John Stephen should remind us that all politics truly is local.

Bradley’s victory, somewhat of a moderate surprise, has positives and negatives for the New Hampshire GOP. On the plus side, Bradley is the more moderate of the two candidates and can contrast his statesmanship and experience with Carol Shea-Porter’s mixed reviews in Congress. As in the primary, however, Bradley will have difficulty distancing himself from his record in Washington and virtually surrenders the change mantle to the incumbent. This race truly could go either way and will likely remain a toss up until the election.

July 30, 2008 Update:

Representative Carol Shea-Porter, the unlikeliest member of the class of 2006, is in a world of trouble this fall. Last cycle, she channeled voter discontent over the Iraq war into a remarkable upset over incumbent Representative Jeb Bradley. But as conditions on the Iraqi ground improve, her raison d’être weakens and her reelection chances suffer. Once again, Shea-Porter has been outraised by her Republican opponents, and nonpartisan polling shows her trailing Bradley in the potential rematch.

Shea-Porter’s best hope is that Bradley’s campaign is derailed by a bitter primary challenge from former Health Commissioner John Stephen. So far, the strategy may be working as the Republicans have fought over fiscal conservatism, outsider credentials, and the support of external groups. If Stephen wins the September 9th primary, or Bradley emerges mortally wounded, the incumbent may yet prevail. Even so, Carol Shea-Porter still has much work to do to establish herself as a respected voice for New Hampshire in Congress, not just a single-issue opponent of the Iraq war.

May 27, 2008 Update:

Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter has decided to accept DCCC help after all. After initially declining to take part in the Frontline program to protect endangered Democrats, but reserving her right to change her mind, she announced that she would seek funding from the national organization. This announcement came on the heels of a lackluster first quarter fundraising report, which showed her to be one of only four freshmen Democrats to be out-raised by their Republican challengers. Shea-Porter is currently in a virtual cash-on-hand tie with her main Republican challenger Jeb Bradley, whom she defeated in 2006 by a 51-49 margin, and polling from earlier this month has shown the rematch to be a statistical dead heat with six months to go.

Although this may all seem like good news for Bradley, whose opponent appears to be getting desperate, the former representative must still escape from a primary that won’t be decided until September 9. Former New Hampshire Commissioner of Health and Human Services John Stephen is in the race as well, and is fundraising well, but Bradley seems content to look past him and concentrate all his firepower on Shea-Porter. Granite State and national politicos alike are watching this race with the greatest of interest.


Background

Representative Carol Shea-Porter enters 2008 trying to prove that her 2008 upset victory was not a fluke. To do so, she will likely have to defeat the district’s former Congressman Jeb Bradley once again. The two candidate’s styles could not be more different. Bradley is a social moderate who runs a conventional campaign of fundraising and TV advertisement. Shea-Porter, one of the more liberal members of the freshman class, raises little money (she even declined DCCC incumbent protection funds) and relies on an extensive volunteer network to promote her message and get out the vote.

In 2006, Shea-Porter was elected by a wave of anti-war activism; now that conditions in Iraq have improved, and the former outsider is now an incumbent, can she replicate such a perfect storm to win reelection? Or will Bradley’s more disciplined, traditional campaign be able to counteract Democratic momentum in an increasingly liberal state? Without doubt, Shea-Porter is one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, but Bradley’s restoration may also be complicated by a primary challenge from the conservative former health commissioner John Stephen.

Candidates

Carol Shea-Porter (I) – Democrat – current Congresswoman
Website

Jeb Bradley – Republican – former Congressman for New Hampshire 1st, defeated by Shea-Porter in 2006
Website

John Stephen – Republican – Former New Hampshire Health commissioner
Website

New Hampshire (02)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


September 16, 2008 Update:

Finally, we have a nominee in New Hampshire’s second Congressional district. Talk radio host Jennifer Horn emerged from a crowded field of GOP contestants with 40 percent of the primary vote. Horn was considered a tentative frontrunner in the primary, and she met, but did not exceed the expectations of her party. Now the nominee, she will have to redouble her efforts to close gaping fundraising and polling deficits with Representative Paul Hodes. With election day less than two months after the primary, time is running out for Horn to mount an effective challenge to a popular incumbent.

May 27, 2008 Update:

With the primary date set for September 9, the GOP has a lot to sort out over the next four months. A four-way Republican primary has developed, with the beneficiary being incumbent Democrat Paul Hodes. Radio host Jennifer Horn had early support of the Republican organization, but that faded away somewhat as state senator Bob Clegg entered the fray. Now all Hodes has to do is sit back and count his money while Republicans burn through theirs. Another cause for concern is not just spending money, but raising it. Neither Clegg nor Horn has even $100,000 on hand while Hodes has banked over $800,000. If this race is to stay competitive, Republicans must find a solution to this mess, preferably well before the September primary date.


Background

Representative Paul Hodes has enjoyed a relatively successful first term in Congress. In addition to being elected freshman Democratic class president and entertaining rumors about a possible Senate run, Hodes hopes to secure his most prized achievement: reelection in November. So far, he appears to be on the right track, but he has alrea
dy attracted a crowded Republican primary. As of right now, state senator Bob Clegg, former Senator Sununu aide Grant Bosse, attorney Jim Steiner and radio talk show host Jennifer Horn are battling to for their party’s nomination with Clegg, the only elected official of the bunch, having a slight upper hand. In this district, Republicans face an uphill climb. With the bluing of New Hampshire and Hodes’ strong fundraising, this race should remain in Democratic hands for the time being.

Candidates

Paul Hodes (I) – Democrat – current Congressman
Website

Bob Clegg – Republican – state senator
Website

Grant Bosse – Republican – former aide to Senator Sununu
Website

Jennifer Horn – Republican – radio talk show host
Website

Jim Steiner – Republican – retired Green Beret, businessman and attorney
Website