By John Toole
---- — As two Republican challengers plan campaign stops in Southern New Hampshire, incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., continues to show strong support in polls.
But for Shaheen opponents Jim Rubens and Karen Testerman, traveling to Londonderry and Pelham in the coming days, there is still hope.
Rubens points to recent University of New Hampshire polling numbers that show 81 percent of respondents admit they are still trying to decide who to support.
“That’s amazing,” Rubens said.
Shaheen is a former three-term governor now serving her first term in the U.S. Senate.
While the number of people uncommitted is significant, Shaheen has done well in polling matchups against potential GOP nominees.
UNH had Shaheen up 48 percent to 29 percent over Testerman and 46 percent to 32 percent over Rubens.
Scott Brown, meanwhile, the Republican former U.S. senator from Massachusetts, trailed Shaheen 47 percent to 37 percent.
Brown, who has a home in Rye, has created a great deal of speculation while leaving his intentions about the race unclear.
New polling from Public Policy Polling, on behalf of the League of Conservation Voters, showed Shaheen also ahead of Brown, 47 percent to 39 percent. That was up from a 3 percent lead PPP gave Shaheen over Brown a month ago.
“There are good numbers for Shaheen across the board,” said Jeff Gohringer, a spokesman for the league.
The league has targeted Brown in TV ads for votes in the Senate supporting oil industry interests.
Shaheen also held a 47 percent to 36 percent lead over former Republican Sen. Bob Smith in the UNH poll.
UNH political science professor Dante Scala said since the retirement of former Gov. John Lynch, Shaheen is the best known and liked politician in the state.
“She, like every other Democrat in New Hampshire, has taken a hit the last few months,” Scala said. “But she has been so durable for so long that it will take a prolonged, high intensity campaign to unseat her.”
Rubens acknowledges name recognition will matter before the race is done. He said he is concentrating on the Republican activists who will deliver the nomination in the September primary.
He said he is encouraged both by the number of uncommitted voters in the UNH poll, but also results showing him faring as well in a matchup with Shaheen as the better known Brown.
Rubens has a fundraising event at The Coach Stop tonight in Londonderry.
He said he is telling GOP activists he has the best chance to unite the party after the primary.
But his general message is one to all voters: “The economy is not working.”
Rubens said priorities are creating jobs, reducing the debt burden on future generations and reducing what he calls a government overreach, both in health care and surveillance on citizens.
Testerman, a conservative activist and former gubernatorial candidate, also is busy reaching out to the Republican base.
She will be in Pelham for the Republican town committee meeting next Monday.
“My message is about ‘Obamacare,’ jobs and the economy and national defense,” Testerman said.
Testerman said meeting people is the name of the game at this point in the campaign.
“This is New Hampshire,” she said. “You have to go out there.”
Testerman said she doesn’t pay much attention to polls.
“One of the things I don’t look at is the polls,” she said. “The real poll that is important is when people come out and vote in the primary.”
Atkinson GOP chairman Gene Schneider said Rubens has spoken to the town committee already and Testerman is coming in March.
Rubens and Testerman are doing what they should be doing now in meeting local Republicans, he said.
“That’s the only way they are going to get their name better known is by going around,” he said.
There’s a great deal of interest in a Brown candidacy.
“I think on our committee a majority would like to see him run,” Schneider said. “But there is a strong, very right wing part of the Republicans are against Scott Brown. He is not conservative enough for them.”
A lot of Republicans are waiting to see what Brown will do, Schneider said.
“That’s probably impacting (Rubens’) numbers,” he said.
Charlene Takesian, treasurer of the Pelham GOP committee, said Republicans are trying to bring in candidates to hear from them. Rubens previously spoke to Pelham Republicans, she said.
Takesian said GOP moderates in town are interested in Brown.
“There are some people who have said they would vote for him,” Takesian said. “They say, ‘Where are the Republicans who are like us?’”
Scala admits it’s hard to discern what Brown will do, but points to one sign from him.
“It’s tough to know about Scott Brown’s intentions, except for his wish to attract free publicity for himself,” Scala said. “His renewal with (Fox News Channel) indicates that he is unwilling to give up his day job. Like Sarah Palin, he realizes that his value as a commentator drops the day he rules out a bid for high office.”