Presidential Race Tightening

At least in New Hampshire, we see new evidence that the Republican presidential primary is showing signs of tightening.

A University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll released during the week (7/13-17; 2,208 NH registered voters; 898 likely Republican primary voters; 743 likely Democratic primary voters; online), projects former President Donald Trump’s lead over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropping to 37-23%. The change represents a net six point gain for Gov. DeSantis since UNH’s April statewide survey.

In another sign that the contest may be on the brink of changing, the second tier has also ascended. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott placed third in the Republican poll with 8% support. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who has been emphasizing New Hampshire with a personal ground level retail approach, and ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie move to 6%, just ahead of businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s 5% posting.

While the numbers are still small, everyone within this latter group has either doubled or more than doubled his or her support since the UNH April poll.

Among the New Hampshire Republican respondents, Gov. DeSantis has the highest favorability rating at 57%, followed closely by Sen. Scott’s 56% positive mark. A total of 52% have a favorable impression of Mr. Ramaswamy. Mr. Trump’s favorability score is 49%. Ex-Gov. Christie has the worst image. His favorability index ratio is 10:64% positive to negative.

While Mr. Trump’s lead is still strong, this poll suggests he may have hit his peak at least in the Granite State. With months remaining before the New Hampshire primary, which has yet to be officially scheduled for a specific date in February, time remains for DeSantis or one of the other candidates to make a serious move.

Conversely, on the Democratic side, while Mr. Trump’s margin has decreased, President Joe Biden’s support factor over Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and author Marianne Williamson has increased since UNH’s April poll. In the previous survey, 63% of New Hampshire Democratic respondents said they supported President Biden. In this latest July poll, his base has increased to 70%.

Found in the Democratic data, which was released the day after the Republican segment, we see 65% of President Biden’s voters saying they will vote for him as a write-in if he doesn’t participate in the New Hampshire primary. The state is not likely to agree with the new Democratic National Committee primary schedule, since it removes New Hampshire from being the first primary in the nation, so there is a good chance the President will not participate.

From the Democratic voter segment who support President Biden, 67% said they are “definitely” committed. Almost two-thirds of this universe would likely be enough for him to beat Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, even without Mr. Biden’s name on the ballot.

Still, all is not totally positive for the President among members of his own party in this important primary and general election state.

Only 36% of the Democratic respondents said they would be “enthusiastic” if President Biden were again to be nominated. When asked to give a one-word response describing each presidential candidate, the top answer for President Biden was “old.”

In the past, the UNH polling had been suspect as the organization released several studies that were far from the actual electoral result. One reason was their elongated sampling periods that would consume as long as three weeks to complete interviews with well less than 1,000 people.

In recent election cycles, UNH has improved their survey research methodology and though they have converted to a typically lesser reliable online approach in comparison to live interviews, their data results have become significantly more credible. Still, the FiveThirtyEight pollster ranking system only rates UNH as a B- survey research operation.

In November, with few states lying in the swing category, New Hampshire is at least a secondary state that could conceivably move away from President Biden. The Granite State electorate, since the turn of the century, has swung wildly from one side to the other, so it can’t be ruled as “safe” for the President despite what look to be comfortable numbers for him now.

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