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April 24. 2012 6:14PM

New poll shows race to succeed Lynch as governor wide open

DURHAM -- No clear leader has yet emerged among the four announced candidates to succeed John Lynch as governor, a new poll released tonight shows.

Ovide Lamontagne, a former candidate for governor and for the U.S. Senate, is the most well-known, but even he is a mystery to more than half of the those who were surveyed in the most recent WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

More than 80 percent of those who responded did not know enough about Kevin Smith, Maggie Hassan or Jackie Cilley to say whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of them.

And potential general election match-ups among the four are close to or actual statistical dead heats, with Democrats Hassan and Cilley slightly ahead of Republicans Smith and Lamontagne.

The poll also shows Granite Staters believe the economy and unemployment remain the most important problem facing the state. Yet, while they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, most say the state is headed in the right direction. The poll showed 62 percent of New Hampshire adults feel it is headed in the right direction, with 32 percent saying it is headed in the wrong direction.

The survey center interviewed 538 randomly selected New Hampshire adults by land line or cell phone between April 9 and 20. Included is a sub-sample of 486 people who said they are likely general voters. The margin of error for that group is 4.4 percent.

Lynch, who is retiring from the State House after four terms in office, remains highly popular. According to the poll, 72 percent of Granite State adults approve of the way he is handling his job as governor, while 17 percent disapprove and 12 percent are neutral. Also, 74 percent said they have a favorable view of Lynch on a personal basis.

Even 62 percent of self-identified Republicans said they have a favorable view of Lynch, the poll says.

Among those who want to succeed him, Republican Lamontagne is viewed favorably by 24 percent, unfavorably by 19 percent, while 3 percent are neutral and 54 percent do not know enough about him to say.

Republican Smith is viewed favorably by 6 percent, unfavorably by 6 percent, while 4 are neutral and 84 percent do not know enough about him to say.

Among the Democrats, Hassan is viewed favorably by 10 percent, unfavorably by 4 percent, while 4 percent are neutral and 81 percent do not know enough about her to say.

Jackie Cilley is viewed favorably by 9 percent, unfavorably by 5 percent, while 3 percent are neutral and 83 percent do not know enough about her to say.

Former state securities official Mark Connolly, who is thinking of running but has not yet announced, was included in the poll and is also unknown to 83 percent.

In potential head-to-head November match-ups, Hassan edges Lamontagne, 34 to 29 percent with 36 percent undecided; Hassan edges Smith 29 to 24 percent with 46 percent undecided; Cilley receives 31 percent to 30 percent for Lamontagne with 38 percent undecided; and Cilley edges Smith 30 to 23 percent with 47 percent undecided.

The survey did not include intra-party primary match-ups between Lamontagne and Smith or between Hassan and Cilley.


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