Rural Election Watch: Senate Seats In N.H. and N.C.
By Sean Reagan
Amidst the Palin chatter, I thought I’d check in on a couple of rural races featuring Democratic women. One is senatorial candidate Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, who’s currently the odds-on favorite to unseat Republican incumbent John Sununu.
In a state where Obama holds a razor-thin lead, Shaheen has doubled her lead over Sununu to eleven points. Much of that margin owes to her standing amongst unaffiliated voters – she holds a whopping 25-point edge (56-31) in that critical Granite State demographic.
Shaheen, of course, is a familiar face to New Hampshire voters. They elected her the state’s first female governor in 1997, a post she held onto until 2003. Some 55% of voters view her favorably.
Of course, Sununu – running for his second term in the senate – is also a familiar face. Which means that his low approval rating – 49% – and his inability to garner more than 45% of voters at any point in the race has to be severely disappointing.
But then, what did Sununu expect? He’s voted with the Bush/Cheney administration 84% of the time.
Shaheen promises New Hampshire the same kind of steady hand she gave them as governor. She supports efforts to end the war in Iraq, and re-investing the $10 billion per month at home. She wants to eliminate some $13 billion in subsidies to the oil and gas industries, refocusing political capital towards emerging energy technologies. She recognizes the need to lower health care costs.
While I don’t expect Republicans to cede the state – McCain will fight hard for its 4 electoral votes – Shaheen’s lead and momentum is increasingly looking insurmountable. If Sununu’s not already polishing his post-senate resume, he will be soon.
Meanwhile, over in North Carolina, the tenacious Kay Hagan is battling Republican incumbent Senator Elizabeth Dole. And while over the summer, most polls showed Hagan down – sometimes by double digits – in the last month, she’s caught up and the two are now in a dead heat.
And that’s for a seat that’s been held by a Republican for 35 years, in a state that’s voted Republican in the last seven presidential elections, and against a woman who is one of – if not the – most recognizable women in Republican politics.
Unfortunately, this is a bad year to run on Republican star power and tradition. Voters are paying attention to the issues, and that’s a big part of what’s fueling Hagan’s momentum.
She helped foster a North Carolina initiative requiring power companies to use renewable energy sources, and wants to do the same in the U.S. Senate. She’s called for lower home heating fuel prices, higher fuel economy standards and wants to replace tax breaks for Big Oil with incentives for clean energy. She also wants to devote funding to research and development for wind, hydro, solar and biofuels.
That kind of specificity and broad vision is resonating this year. When you add a slew of other thoughtful positions – expanded health care access, increased funding for veteran’s health care, and tax cuts for the middle class, you begin to understand why Hagan may well oust Dole.
When the Dems pick up seats this year in the Senate, they’ll have women to thank in no small measure.
Posted on September 1st, 2008 by seanreagan
Filed under: Senate Races