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John DiStaso's Granite Status: New Democratic poll shows Hassan, Lamontagne in statistical dead heat

Senior Political Reporter

September 26. 2012 11:00AM

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 26, UPDATE: RAZOR CLOSE. A new internal poll commissioned by the state Democratic Party shows Democrat Maggie Hassan and Republican Ovide Lamontagne in a statistical dead heat in the race for the open governor's seat but Hassan in a 'good position to win.'

Hassan holds a 48 to 46 percent edge in the Sept. 15 to 19 poll of 600 likely voters conducted by Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

The sample breakdown is 31 percent Democrats, 30 percent Republicans and 39 percent independents.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner says in a memo obtained by the Granite Status that Hassan 'enjoys stronger standing' than Lamontagne and 'is in a good position to win this race with an aggressive campaign and the resources necessary to communicate and define the choice in this election.'

The poll memo says Hassan 'is currently known to three-quarters of likely voters and gets very solid ratings, with a 37-24 percent favorable-unfavorable ratio.'

The pollster says Lamontagne 'has 82 percent name recognition but gets much more negative ratings from voters than Hassan, with a 34-34 percent favorable-unfavorable.'

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner says Hassan is running in a 'good political environment.'

The Washington-based firm says says its polling showed President Barack Obama leading Republican challenger Mitt Romney, 52 to 45 percent, in New Hampshire and outgoing Gov. John Lynch with a 'very impressive 57-17 favorable-unfavorable ratio.'

'Hassan is in a good position to win the gubernatorial race in November and keep the corner office in Democratic hands, but the race is close and will require significant effort to ensure victory for Hassan in November,' the Democratic pollster says.

(Earlier updates and the full Sept. 20 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 26, UPDATE: BREAKING A 'PLEDGE?' Republican Rep. Frank Guinta's campaign manager says Democrat Carol Shea-Porter is breaking a pledge she made in May by coordinating a 'massive' television ad buy with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Shea-Porter's campaign had used its own funds to pay for its ad accusing Guinta of voting against veterans. But Tuesday, the DCCC began picking up the tab through coordinated funds.

Guinta campaign manager Ethan Zorfas recalled that last May, Shea-Porter proposed she and Guinta jointly call on Super PACs to refrain from advertising in their race. She said it was OK with her if Super PACs engaged in grassroots organizing, however.

Guinta's camp refused, calling her hypocritical since a Super PAC called CREDO was involved in (and is still involved in) organizing against and protesting against Guinta.

Zorfas this week called that call by Shea-Porter last May a 'pledge,' and he said she broke it by allowing the DCCC to now pick up the payment for her ads.

He acknowledged that the DCCC is not a Super PAC, but said, 'Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter went against her own campaign pledge when she began coordinating a massive TV ad buy with one of Washington's largest special interests (the DCCC).'

'This is just more politics as usual from her; she tells Granite Staters one thing and then does something different to benefit her own election.'

But Shea-Porter campaign manager Naomi Andrews said there was no pledge in May, just a jilted call for a joint statement with Guinta, and so no pledge was broken.

'We always said we would work with our team, and obviously the DCCC is our team,' she said.

Andrews pointed out the Guinta camp on Tuesday put up a response ad defending Guinta's votes on behalf of veterans, accusing Shea-Porter of 'false attacks' and criticizing her for voting in favor of the Obama stimulus, which, the Guinta ad says, 'provided tax breaks for companies that created jobs in countries like China' when she was in Congress.

It turns out the Guinta ad was paid for by both the Guinta campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee -- a similar payment arrangement to the Shea-Porter/DCCC partnership that the Guinta campaign is complaining about. And if the DCCC is a 'one of Washington's largest special interests,' wouldn't the NRCC be considered the same?

Zorfas said, 'But the difference is that my boss hasn't been writing columns for the past year saying how disgusting it is that outside groups are getting involved in the campaign.'

In a recent post on, Shea-Porter wrote, 'While I abhor the amount of money being spent by outside groups, and wish that Congressman Frank Guinta had agreed to sign a statement with me asking that outside groups stay out of our race, I am more concerned about the inaccurate messages that their money might spread across our state's television sets.'

Andrews, meanwhile, said Guinta's ad brags about 'the fact that he re-introduced Carol Shea-Porter's bill, the Veterans Health Equity Act.

'Congressman Guinta is desperate to distract from his vote for the Ryan budget, so he has chosen to attack Carol's strong record of standing up for veterans and the middle class,' she said.

(Earlier updates and the full Sept. 20 Granite Status follow.)

TUESDAY, SEPT. 25, UPDATE: AFT-NH BACKS HASSAN. Organized labor is responding to the visits this week by two of what it describes as 'anti-labor' governors coming to the state for the state Republican Party and Republican candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne.

As New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has battled with teachers unions in his home state, campaigns with Lamontagne today, the American Federation of Teachers-NH announced an endorsement of Democrat Maggie Hassan for governor.

AFL-CIO state president Mark MacKenzie said his union will canvass Nashua on Saturday, the same day that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be in the state to speak to the NHGOP state convention.

Also Tuesday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party put out a new web ad, entitled 'Friends of Ovide,' accusing Christie of cutting education funding by $1 billion during his first year in office and Walker of cutting education by $1.85 billion during his first year on the job.

'What does 'Scott Walker on steroids'' -- Lamontagne's phrase describing how he would govern -- 'mean for education in New Hampshire?' the ad asks.

It notes his support for a voucher school choice plan and his opposition to mandatory statewide kindergarten.

MacKenzie said about 150 union members 'will distribute comparison leaflets on Maggie Hassan and Ovide Lamontagne as well as literature on the presidential, congressional and state Senate races.'

'What kind of governor would Ovide Lamontagne be?' asked MacKenzie. 'Just look at his role models. Both Scott Walker and Chris Christie made names for themselves dismantling basic rights for working people.'

AFT-NH president Laura Hainey said Hassan 'is a tireless advocate for the middle class and will continue to be as governor. Ovide Lamontagne positions are too extreme.'

AFT-NH says it has about 4,000 members in New Hampshire. NEA-NH, the largest teachers union, endorsed Hassan in August.

(Earlier updates and the full Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, SEPT. 24, UPDATE: TALKING GROUND GAME. Republican National Committee Political Director Rick Wiley will be in New Hampshire tomorrow (Sept. 25) to meet with local 'Victory' operations staff and volunteers about the party's get-out-the-vote effort on behalf of Mitt Romney's campaign.

Wiley wrote in an update today that six weeks before the election, 'the Romney Victory program has already identified over 2.2 million swing voters (nationally), has started our Absentee Ballot program and will soon begin focusing on Early Vote Turnout.

'In New Hampshire,' Wiley wrote, 'we've made 3 times more phone calls and 8 times more door knocks than this time in '08.'

Wiley wrote that nationally, the campaign has made 'more than 26 million voter contacts, thanks to the efforts of our 73,000 volunteers. This week, we expect to make our 30 millionth voter contact. By mid-September, we had already surpassed the 2008 operation in total volunteer voter contacts.

(Earlier updates and the full Sept. 20 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, SEPT. 24, UPDATE: WALKER TO KEYNOTE FOR NHGOP. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will keynote the New Hampshire Republican Party's state convention on Saturday, Sept. 29, the party confirmed this morning.

Walker will follow another outspoken Republican governor to the state. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be in the state tomorrow, Sept. 25, to campaign for GOP candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne.

The convention with Walker will be held at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry beginning at 9 a.m.

Christie will be featured tomorrow at a private fund-raiser for Lamontagne at the Bedford Village Inn (see items below).

He will also tour and participate in a roundtable discussion at the Atrium Medical Corp. in Hudson at 1:30 p.m. Christie will then attend a Lamontagne campaign rally at 3 p.m. hosted by state Sen. Chuck Morse at Morse's Freshwater Farms in Atkinson.

The appearances by the two governors illustrate the intense focus the Republican Governors Association is placing on the New Hampshire race between Lamontagne and Democrat Maggie Hassan.

Lamontagne has said during his campaign that he would govern like 'Scott Walker on steroids.'

The two governors are also mentioned as potential contenders for future GOP presidential nominations, perhaps in 2016 if Mitt Romney loses to Barack Obama in November.

(Earlier updates and the full Sept. 20 Granite Status follow.)

FRIDAY, SEPT. 21, UPDATE: CHRISTIE FOR OVIDE. Outspoken and often controverisal (but never dull) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be in New Hampshire on Tuesday to help raise money for Republican candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne. (See details below.)

FRIDAY, SEPT. 21, UPDATE: BLAMING BARACK AND BIDEN. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden are in New Hampshire for campaign stops today and tomorrow. Mitt Romney's campaign chided him on the rise in the state's unemployment rate.

The Department of Employment announced this week that the state's unemployment rate crept up from 5.4 to 5.7 percent in August, with the number of unemployed residents increasing by 1,700 to 41,870.

The national unemployment rate for August was 8.1 percent, a decrease from 8.3 percent in July.

Romney spokesman Michael Levoff said, 'Today, we received more bad news from the Obama economy --more and more Granite Staters are finding themselves unemployed. Vice President Biden is in New Hampshire today and Granite Staters should receive an answer for why the state has continued to bleed hundreds of jobs despite the promise of a recovery.

'President Obama has changed his tune from 'yes we can' to 'no we can't,' claiming it's impossible for him to change Washington from the inside. His failure is clearly on display with today's disappointing job numbers,' Levoff said.

The Bidens went to Dartmouth College Friday afternoon and were scheduled to appear at the State House Friday evening.

Saturday, the Jill Biden will be at the Obama campaign office on Maple Street in Manchester and then join her husband for an event at the Merrimack Middle School.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 21, UPDATE: SENIORS FOR BASS. U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, accused by Democratic congressional challenger Ann Kuster of supporting the privatization of Social Security, on Friday released a 'Seniors Steering Committee.'

The panel includes former Federal Emergency Management Administrator and former state transportation commissioner Wally Stickney of Salem, former state Rep. Terry Dudley of Lebanon and Coos County Commissioner Bing Judd.

The Cook Political Report this week changed the outlook for the District 2 race from 'toss-up' to 'lean Democratic.'

FRIDAY, SEPT. 21, UPDATE: CHRIS'S COUNCIL. Democratic District 4 Executive Council candidate Chris Pappas has announced a 137-member Leadership Council comprising a cross section of party activists.

Included are Alderman Patrick Arnold, former Ambassador George Bruno, Dr. Sylvio Dupuis and state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro.

(More on the Lamontagne fund-raiser featuring Christie and earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

FRIDAY, SEPT. 21, UPDATE: THE OVIDE-CHRISTIE EVENT. The Ovide Lamontagne fund-raiser featuring New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 11:30 a.m. at The Bedford Village Inn, according to an invitation obtained by the Granite Status.

Suggested contributions are $250 per person although a $1,000-a-couple VIP reception will also be held.

Other Lamontagne campaign events featuring Christie are planned for Tuesday and will be announced.

Hosting the fund-raiser will be U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who defeated Lamontagne in the 2010 U.S. Senate primary, and former Gov. Steve Merrill. Lamontagne served as chairman of the state Board of Education when Merrill was governor in the early 1990s.

Christie, an early supporter of Mitt Romney for President and a key surrogate, was the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention last month in Tampa.

Tomorrow, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett will be in New Hampshire for a Lamontagne fund-raiser at the Hanover Street Chophouse in Manchester.

The joint appearance by Corbett and Lamontagne drew criticism from the Planned Parenthood of North New England Action Fund.

"Lamontagne has chosen one of the most extreme anti-women's health governors in the country as an ally," said Jennifer Frizzell, a Planned Parenthood fund senior advisor.

For the most recent fund-raising and cash-on-hand totals for Lamontagne and Democratic candidate for governor Maggie Hassan, see our item below.

(An earlier update and the full Sept. 20 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, SEPT. 20, UPDATE: INTO THE GENERAL. Although they won in landslides, Maggie Hassan and Ovide Lamontagne spent campaign funds during their primaries as though they were in razor close elections.

In the end, maybe they didn't have to spend more than a $1 million each. It was about more than the primaries, however.

Hassan, who had been virtually unknown to all but political insiders earlier this year, had to spend big to gain name recognition moving into the general election..

And even Lamontagne, despite being in his fourth major campaign, wasn't exactly a household name statewide.

According to Hassan's post-primary finance report, filed on Wednesday, she raised $1.072 million during the primary, spent $1.05 million and had only $16,395 in cash on hand as she moved into the general election.

Lamontagne spent almost as much in his primary campaign. While raising $1.27 million, he spent $1.01 million.

But Lamontagne's campaign opened the general election with $258,000 on hand, about 16 times more than Hassan.

Hassan's campaign says there is no reason for concern about the huge cash gap.

'We're raising the money we need and we're confident that we're going to have the resources to win,' said spokesman Will Craig.

What they're not saying is that Hassan will also receive plenty of help from outside groups making independent expenditures, such as EMILY's List and the Democratic Governors Association.

Lamontagne will also receive help, as he already has, from the Republican Governors Association.

Lamontagne, by the way, raised $48,000 and spent $289,000 in the final week or so of his primary campaign, while Hassan raised $63,000 and spent $81,000 during the same period.

In other closely watched state races, Democratic District 4 Executive Council candidate Chris Pappas had no primary opposition and opens his general election campaign against Republican Bob Burns with more than $82,000 on hand. Burns did not file a Sept. 19 report, but in his Sept. 5 report, he had $1,200 on hand.

In the District 9 state Senate race, Democrat Lee Nyquist, who had no primary, enters the general election with $70,000 on hand compared to nearly $46,000 for Republican Andy Sanborn, who won a hotly contested primary.

And District 18 state Senate Democratic candidate Donna Soucy reported $64,000 on hand, while her GOP opponent, J. Gail Barry, does not yet have a Sept. 19 report on file.

(The full Sept. 20 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, SEPT. 20: 'MOMENTS' FOR MAGGIE, OVIDE. Each candidate in Wednesday's interesting, informative and sometimes spicy gubernatorial debate had moments to explain afterward.

Democrat Hassan sure seemed to be blaming the Department of Health and Human Services' response to the hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital on funding cuts enacted by a GOP-dominated Legislature.

When Republican Lamontagne called that 'irresponsible' and 'reckless,' Hassan responded, 'It is reckless for anyone to suggest that you can just keep cutting with no consequences to our entire health care system. We have people in this state who aren't getting care because of the cuts this Legislature has made.'


It certainly appeared she 'connected the dots' from funding cuts to the outbreak.

But afterward, Hassan said she was 'just trying to make the point generally that we have to make sure that we have the resources we need to provide health care, and that's the broader point.'

Was she saying that the state's response was connected to cuts?

'No, I'm not,' she said.

Lamontagne said she 'absolutely linked' the two.

'It's irresponsible to say that, and there is no evidence to suggest a lack of funding even contributed to this whole issue.'

Lamontagne said candidates 'should not try to politicize important public health issues like this.'

Hassan again took the anti-broad-based tax pledge, but Lamontagne and his campaign insisted it's not genuine.

It wasn't backed up by her record, they said. She was open to an income tax while running for the state Senate in 2002, although she did oppose income and sales taxes in subsequent years.

While Lamontagne also promised to oppose any hike in gasoline taxes or tolls, Hassan would not, saying these items needed to remain on the table as a possible way of funding infrastructure.

'For someone who has taken the 'Pledge,' Hassan is chronically unable to say whether or not she'll raise any other tax in the state,' tweeted Lamontagne adviser Jim Merrill.

'This is what they say about every Democrat running for office,' Hassan said. 'They made similar accusations against John Lynch.'

She said there is a $90 million hole in the transportation/infrastructure budget 'and we have to find a way to come together to fund that.'

Lamontagne said it's hard to believe Hassan because of her support for a tax on Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs), 'which is an income tax on small business, and the fact that she started her career in favor of an income tax.'

Hassan said the highly unpopular and since-repealed LLC tax was passed by the Legislature in which she served as Senate Majority Leader with the support of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, which happened to be a cosponsor of the debate.

But the BIA said no way; it didn't support the tax. It did acknowledge it supported the budget that included the tax.

But Lamontagne had a bit of explaining to do, too.

Hassan said he signed a pledge put forward by the conservative Cornerstone Research advocacy group, which, she said, promotes 'some of the social issues he said he wasn't going to pay any attention to as governor.

'But part of that pledge also says he will work to completely deregulate private health insurance in the state of New Hampshire,' she said.

Lamontagne said he didn't know what she was talking about. He said the pledge he signed weeks ago had no such call and was a general statement of conservative principles.

What he did not know was that Cornerstone this week issued a '2013-2014 Families First Legislative Agenda' calling for health care deregulation.

Cornerstone said it was 'based on the goals identified earlier this year by Cornerstone's Families First Pledge for candidates.'

Cornerstone's Shannon McGinley said, 'We fully expect our pledge signers to introduce the bills identified in our agenda.'

'I haven't even read (the agenda),' Lamontagne said.

Hassan said it doesn't matter what came first.

The pledge he signed 'is from Cornerstone Research, which has an agenda which includes deregulating insurance companies, which Ovide has also talked about.'

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SCHOOL CHOICE VS. PUBLIC EDUCATION. Hassan and Lamontagne each made their cases on school choice.

She said Lamontagne's choice plan, including a voucher system, would 'divert millions of dollars from our public education system, which in Manchester has as many as 40 kids in a classroom, to private and religious schools.

'That doesn't help our middle-class families.'

Lamontagne replied by noting that Hassan lives at Phillips Exeter Academy, where her husband is principal.

'Your family is fortunate,' Lamontagne said. 'You've had the experience of the Phillips Exeter Academy. That's a wonderful school. But it's not a public school and I want every child to experience what I did when I went to St. Paul's School advance studies program.

'They took high school students from the public schools and Catholic schools and gave us the experience of what a boarding school was like in the summertime.

'I want that for every child. That's why I support choice. That will empower our children to realize the things that they can only aspire to.'

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THAT '47 PERCENT' THING. Lamontagne distanced himself from Mitt Romney's comment in a May video that he will never get the vote of 47 percent of Americans who pay no taxes, view themselves as 'victims' and are 'dependent on government.'

'There's no 47 percent in New Hampshire as far as I'm concerned,' Lamontagne said. 'Every citizen deserves to have a responsible government.'

Hassan turned the question to abortion, saying, 'You can't be the governor of everyone in New Hampshire if you deny the right of a woman to make her own health care decisions.'

Lamontagne said he would be 'duty-bound to enforce the law of the land,' under Roe v. Wade.

'And if a bill comes to your desk to ban abortion, you won't sign it?' asked Hassan.

'It's not coming to my desk,' he said. 'The law of the land provides for abortion and that's not changing.'

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APPEARANCE OF THE WEEK: It was great to see longtime Democratic activist/strategist Judy Reardon at the debate. She has been battling major health issues. Asked if she was playing a role in the Hassan campaign, she smiled and said, 'unpaid advice.'

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AD OF THE WEEK: Charlie Bass' new ad charging that 2nd District U.S. House foe Annie Kuster is running from her liberal record includes a woman who is a spitting image of the Democratic challenger.

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TWEET OF THE WEEK: Chris Cizilla, political reporter of the Washington Post and author of The Fix column:

'Proposed new cable show: 'John (H.) Sununu On....'

'Format: Sununu in single leather chair. Off cam people throw subjects out. He riffs.

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John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at Twitter: @jdistaso.

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