Our first look in 2010 at the New Hampshire Senate race confirms what all the other polling shows- Republican front runner Kelly Ayotte has a solid early lead over Democratic candidate Paul Hodes, 47-40.
Part of that is Barack Obama's falling popularity in the state and part of that is Ayotte's personal popularity. Obama won a solid victory in the state in 2008 but his approval rating is now in negative territory with 48% of voters disapproving of him to 47% who like the job he's doing. The health care bill passed last month is more unpopular with 50% of voters in the state opposed to it and only 42% supportive. A majority of independents both disapprove of Obama and express opposition to the health care bill.
The falling fortunes of the President would make this a tougher year for Democrats in New Hampshire in and of itself but Ayotte is also a particularly strong opponent. 34% of voters view favorably to 24% with an unfavorable opinion. That includes a positive 35/23 spread with independents, who are down on pretty much all politicians right now. She's also seen positively by 20% of Democrats, which is more popularity across party lines than most politicians are mustering in this highly polarized political climate.
What it all adds up to is Ayotte leading Hodes 49-34 with independents and picking up 15% of the Democratic vote while Hodes gets just 7% of the Republican vote. Ayotte even leads 47-42 in Hodes' Congressional district while holding a wider 49-37 advantage in Carol Shea-Porter's.
Hodes also trails Bill Binnie 46-41, but leads Jim Bender 43-40 and Ovide Lamontagne 43-38. Republican primary numbers that will be released tomorrow confirm that Ayotte is the clear front runner for her party's nomination.
There's a long way to go until this fall but for now this race looks like it will be the first real bright spot for Republicans in the state since 2002.
Full results here