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Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand is willing to exit the Senate race if former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen seeks the Democratic nomination. But in the meantime, he is doing his best to convince primary voters that he, too, would make a formidable challenger to Sen. John Sununu (R).

Marchand hammered Sununu for revealing that he would not campaign with President Bush right now.

“Neither of us plan on campaigning with George Bush in 2008,” Marchand said in a news release. “But only I can campaign without George Bush’s record in 2008.”

Last week the University of New Hampshire’s Granite State Poll heaped more bad news on Sununu, who has trailed Shaheen badly in previous hypothetical contests.

He shadowed Shaheen 54 percent to 38 percent in the poll of 524 adults surveyed July 9 to 17.

The poll had an error margin of 4.5 points.

At 43 percent to 39 percent, Katrina Swett, wife of former Rep. Dick Swett (D-N.H.), is not far behind Sununu in the head-to-head matchup. Swett has not said whether she would step aside for Shaheen.

Marchand polled almost as well — 42 percent to 38 percent against Sununu — while former astronaut Jay Buckey pulled up the rear.

“No Senate challenger in America polls closer to the incumbent than Steve Marchand,” his campaign manager, David Mason, noted in a news release. “This poll clearly shows that New Hampshire voters are ready for a change and that Steve Marchand’s campaign is gaining real momentum.”

Shaheen is supposed to announce this fall whether she wants a rematch after her narrow 2002 loss to Sununu.

— Nicole Duran

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