In a year when one establishment Republican Senate candidate after another has fallen victim to an insurgent Tea Party challenger, New Hampshire front runner Kelly Ayotte has found the solution: become the Tea Party candidate herself. Ayotte holds an overwhelming 47-14 lead over her closest challenger, Bill Binnie, thanks in part to a 55-12 lead with the primary voters who consider themselves to be a member of the Tea Party.
Ayotte's lead over the GOP field is pretty thorough. She's been able to unite the various factions of the party around her. She's up 48-12 with people who think the party's too liberal, 38-14 with people who think it's too conservative, and 53-15 with ones who think it's the fine way it is. She's the overwhelming favorite of Tea Partiers but she's also up 46-17 with folks who don't consider themselves Tea Party members and 41-10 with those who aren't sure. And she pairs a 43-16 advantage with conservatives with a 48-14 ones with moderates.
Sarah Palin's endorsement has received a lot of attention of late but how important that really is to Ayotte's advantage is unclear. 38% of primary voters say they're more likely to vote for a Palin endorsed candidate to 28% who say that would turn them away from a candidate and 34% who say it doesn't make a difference either way. Those numbers are more narrow than we usually see with Republican voters, but only 53% of primary voters in NH identify as conservatives to 39% who are moderates so that may mitigate Palin's impact a little bit in New Hampshire. The national numbers run closer to a 70-30 split between conservatives and moderates.
Ayotte is up 53-11 with those who say they're positively influenced by a Palin endorsement. But she's also up 41-16 with those who say it's a negative and 47-16 with those who say they could care.
Ayotte's 33 point advantage on this poll represents a nine point increase from April, when we found her leading Binnie 43-19. Palin's endorsement probably didn't hand Ayotte the lead, which she already had, so much as keep her from seeing the kind of erosion in her support as primary day moved closer that other initial Republican front runners across the country like Charlie Crist, Sue Lowden, Trey Grayson, and Jane Norton have had to deal with and generally without success.
Things can change fast, especially in primaries, but Ayotte continues to look like an overwhelming favorite for her party's nomination.
Full results here