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PPP returns to New Hampshire for the first time since April.

Public Policy Polling (PDF). 7/23-25. Voters. MoE 3.26%. (4/17-15 results)

Kelly Ayotte (R) 45% (47)
Paul Hodes (D) 42% (40)

Bill Binnie (R) 46% (46)
Paul Hodes (D) 41% (41)

Jim Bender (R) 42% (40)
Paul Hodes (D) 43% (43)

Ovide Lamontagne (R) 38% (38)
Paul Hodes (D) 43% (43)

In short, the head-to-heads between Paul Hodes and Bill Binnie and Ovide Lamontagne have held steady, Hodes has lost a little ground against Jim Bender, and he's gained ground against frontrunner Kelly Ayotte.

The change against Ayotte is the significant piece here. Significant because she's the frontrunner by a large margin, but most significant because this is the first time a poll has the gap between Ayotte and Hodes under seven points in nearly a year.

As Tom Jensen notes, "There's not much doubt that the shift in the race is all about Ayotte." While Hodes' net favorability has improved slightly (from 32% favorable/39% unfavorable to 35/40), Ayotte's net favorability has plummeted from 34/24 to 36/39. In particular, Hodes has opened up a massive lead among moderates.

What's the explanation? Ayotte's problems with the FRM ponzi scheme may have had some effect. But PPP's Jensen points to Sarah Palin. Palin endorsed Ayotte last week, highlighting Ayotte's anti-abortion stance. Not only is New Hampshire a solidly pro-choice state, but

51% of voters in the state say they're less likely to back a Palin endorsed candidate to only 26% who say that support would make them more inclined to vote for someone. Among moderates that widens to 65% who say a Palin endorsement would turn them off to 14% who it would make more supportive.

This is Ayotte's first major sign of vulnerability. Will it be the opening wedge that Hodes uses to break the race open, or will it be another opportunity that slips away?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 08:40 AM PDT.

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