Ayotte’s Lead Narrows in N.H. GOP Senate Primary

Posted September 13, 2010 at 9:21am

Former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte holds a 7-point lead over surging conservative businessman Ovide Lamontagne in the Granite State’s crowded Republican Senate primary, according to a poll released late Sunday night by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

Ayotte led 37 percent to Lamontagne’s 30 percent among likely Republican primary voters. Deep-pocketed businessman Bill Binnie garnered just 13 percent, despite having spent nearly $6 million out of his own pocket, while another conservative favorite, Jim Bender, finished last with 12 percent.

The survey of 1,134 likely Republican primary voters (New Hampshire’s open primary system allows voters of all political affiliations to participate in the contest) was conducted Saturday and Sunday. The margin of error was 2.9 points.

Democrats have taken particular interest in Tuesday’s GOP Senate primaries in New Hampshire and Delaware because the Republican establishment candidates are showing signs of faltering. The left is rooting for tea-party-backed conservative pundit Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Lamontagne in New Hampshire, believing they will be weaker candidates in general election matchups against Democrats.

While Public Policy Polling reported Sunday that the Delaware race was a statistical tie, the Democratic firm found that Ayotte has had “quite a dramatic fall” from its last poll, in which she led Lamontagne by 39 points.

However, “it looks like Kelly Ayotte will hang on, but the momentum has certainly been in Ovide Lamontagne’s direction so an upset is not out of the question,” PPP President Dean Debnam said in a memo.

While some consider Lamongtagne the tea party favorite in New Hampshire, the polling found that the top two candidates split that group. That may be because of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s support for Ayotte.

While Palin has relatively low popularity in the Granite State, she endorsed Ayotte in mid-July and recorded a robocall on her behalf this weekend.

“Kelly is one tough Granite Grizzly who has broken barriers, fought off and locked up criminals, and stood up for New Hampshire families,” Palin says in the message. “Now Kelly needs your help to take on the big spenders in Washington. She’s the true conservative running for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire.”

Palin continued: “Kelly’s opponents have been falsely attacking her for weeks. And the Democrat is afraid to run against her.”