By John Toole firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — New Hampshire candidates will have their eyes set on tomorrow’s second presidential debate.
The rematch between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney comes with polls showing closely contested races at the top of the ballot for president, governor and Congress.
Analysts agree Obama had a poor first debate that produced a polling bounce for Romney.
In New Hampshire, University of New Hampshire Survey Center polling had Obama up by 15 points before the first debate. Afterward, UNH numbers released last week dropped the lead to six, with Democrat Obama at 47 percent to 41 percent for Republican Romney.
The governor’s race remains in doubt, too.
Republican nominee Ovide Lamontagne led Democrat Maggie Hassan, 34 percent to 30 percent, with 34 percent undecided. The UNH poll concluded the race is “still up in the air” with the number of undecideds rising.
Republican 1st Congressional District incumbent Frank Guinta surged to a lead over Democratic former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, 40 percent to 33 percent. Shea-Porter had built an 11-point lead prior to the first presidential debate.
Democrat Ann McLane Kuster led Republican 2nd Congressional District incumbent Charles Bass, 35 percent to 32 percent.
The up-the-ballot contests matter to candidates down the ballot because they can affect enthusiasm among both voters and campaigns.
Rep. Norman Major, R-Plaistow, is hoping Romney performs as he did in the first debate.
“It was excellent, a great debate,” Major said. “He has to stay as communicative to people as he can so they understand he worries about them. He’s dealing with people, not companies, and he’s got to convey that.”
Major, an eight-term representative, is confident his own 46 years of public service and volunteer work in the community will be the real difference for his re-election bid despite the high stakes in the national debates.
“In Plaistow and Atkinson, people know me. They know how I do it,” Major said.
Victoria Czaia of Atkinson is in her first run for state political office, campaigning as a Democrat for the New Hampshire Senate seat held by Republican Chuck Morse of Salem, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
“I’ve never run before. I’m thrilled,” Czaia said, admitting the close races are creating campaign excitement.
“It’s really an awesome time to be running,” she said.
“I’d really like to see Obama do a better job,” Czaia said. “I’d like to see him speak up, not be so relaxed. I’d like to see him a bit more aggressive. He needs to show average citizens he’s ready to fight against Romney.”
Democrat R. Christopher Reisdorf, a former Derry town councilor challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Rausch of Derry, concedes he’s a little concerned, though not much, about Obama’s performance.
“He does need to do better than last time, for his own sake. He didn’t appear mentally there. It was his anniversary. Maybe he was thinking about what to get (Michelle),” Reisdorf said.
Reisdorf agrees with Czaia that it’s an exciting time on the trail.
“It’s like a few years ago when all the Democrats won. It’s like this can really happen,” Reisdorf said.
Rep. John Sedensky, R-Hampstead, said what’s happening up the ballot matters to his chances in Hampstead.
“We’ll see on the 6th (of November).”
The format for tomorrow night’s debate at Hofstra University, airing on network television at 9 p.m., is billed as town hall-style.
“I don’t think a town hall forum is an advantage. I think they’re a little bit tougher to handle,” Sedensky said.
Sedensky thought Romney did well in the first debate — he looked presidential, and needs to build on that performance.
“I think he has to do a good job. He’s got an advantage with the way foreign policy is heading, with the loss of the ambassador and the three servicepeople. If he hits Obama hard on foreign policy, Romney can turn this around,” Sedensky said.
Major speculates the tight races — he can’t recall an election like this one — only provide excitement for those who follow politics.
“The vast majority of people get tuned out by all these ads. They’re negative, negative, negative. We ought to be talking about the issues,” Major said.
It’s the process, not the candidates, he said.
“Everybody is in there to do something for their state, country or community,” Major said.
Office holders need to be able to negotiate and compromise “so everybody comes away with a little bit,” Major said.
New Hampshire remains one of a dozen tossup battleground states in the contest between Romney and Obama. Obama is due back in the state Thursday for a campaign stop in Manchester.
National political figures also continue to campaign in New Hampshire to boost the chances of state candidates. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is slated to be at a Lamontagne fundraiser today in Seabrook.