EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 25, 2012

Coattails may play big role in NH

Straight-ticket voting anticipated

By Doug Ireland direland@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — There’s no doubt New Hampshire will play a significant role in the presidential election, but don’t be surprised if that election has a big impact on Granite State races as well.

Political experts say they expect what happens at the national level to be mirrored statewide, especially in the gubernatorial showdown between Republican Ovide Lamontagne and Democrat Maggie Hassan.

So, if President Barack Obama is re-elected to a second term, chances are Hassan and many other New Hampshire Democrats will be victorious as well, the analysts said.

But if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is elected, expect other Republican candidates to succeed, too, they said.

“I think that’s a pretty well-established likelihood,” political analyst Dean Spiliotes said. “It’s true for the gubernatorial race; it’s also true for the congressional races.”

Spiliotes, a political science professor at Southern New Hampshire University, said to expect New Hampshire’s Democratic and Republican hopefuls to ride the coattails of the presidential candidates.

That’s because they have similar views on key issues, as do voters from both political parties, he said.

A person who supports Obama is mostly likely to vote for other Democrats on the ballot, he said, and the same can be said for Romney and fellow Republicans.

“People are not in the split-ticket mindset as they once were,” he said.

University of New Hampshire political professors Andrew Smith and Dante Scala agree.

“People are likely to vote straight ticket,” Smith said.

The public is so caught up in the tight presidential race, the pundits said, they know little about the candidates for state offices. So, expect the battle between Obama and Romney to have a trickledown effect in the Granite State, considered a key swing state.

“I think it’s huge,” Smith said of the potential impact, “especially in the governor’s race.”

The latest poll by the UNH Survey Center, overseen by Smith, indicates the gubernatorial race is up for grabs. Twenty-nine percent of the 773 New Hampshire residents polled between Oct. 17 and 21 said they are undecided.

“I think that is an indication no one is really paying attention to this race,” he said.

That means voters will tend to support the party’s candidate instead of the specific individual running for office, Smith said.

The poll, released Tuesday, says 37 percent support Hassan, 31 percent back Lamontagne, 2 percent endorse Libertarian candidate John Babiarz and 1 percent favor another candidate. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Scala agreed voters will likely back their party’s candidate if they are not familiar with the person running. The winner of the gubernatorial race will replace popular four-term Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.

“It’s downshifting to the bottom of the ballot, which isn’t surprising,” Scala said. “You have two gubernatorial candidates who are not very well known.”

Scala said that downshifting also will have a big impact on the state Legislature, where many Democrats are seeking to return to the House and Senate after a Republican landslide two years ago.

“I think they are going to make up a lot of ground in the state Legislature,” he said.