Carol Shea-Porter (D): 47 (41)
Frank Guinta (R-inc): 43 (48)
Undecided: 10 (10)
Ann McLane Kuster (D): 42 (42)New Hampshire seems to have especially outsized reactions to swings in the nation's political pendulum. That's particularly pronounced in the state's enormous House of Representatives, which swung from a 216-174 Democratic edge to a 298-102 Republican edge in the 2010 election—but it's also the case with the state's two U.S. House seats, which both flipped from Republican to Democratic control in the 2006 wave, and back again to Republicans in 2010. We don't seem to be looking at a wave building one way or the other in 2012; instead, put together an election likely to be fought at the 50-yard line and two very swingy seats, and you've got two true tossups, which is exactly what PPP's newest poll of the Granite State finds.
Charlie Bass (R-inc): 42 (43)
Undecided: 15 (15)
Most observers (with the notable exception of local blogger Dean Barker) have expected that NH-02 is likelier to flip back into Democratic control than NH-01. That's based partly on the districts' leans (the lines barely changed at redistricting, keeping NH-01 53 percent Obama and NH-02 56 percent Obama), but also the 2010 results, important because both races are rematches. Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter lost by double digits to Republican Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, while Ann McLane Kuster (who was trying to hold the seat left open by Paul Hodes' Senate run) came much closer to ex-Rep. Charlie Bass (who picked back up the seat that he lost to Hodes in 2006). Add in Shea-Porter's reputation for weak fundraising, and voila: Conventional wisdom was formed.
However, PPP's newest poll stands that on its head: Shea-Porter leads Guinta by 4, while Kuster ties Bass. That's quite the turnaround for Shea-Porter from PPP's previous poll from almost a year ago, where she trailed Guinta by 7. What seems to have happened is that Guinta has become much less popular, down to a 36/44 approval from 39/38 last year. I'd speculate that might have to do with buyer's remorse, as Guinta has turned out to be much more rigidly conservative than that district would warrant; compare that with Bass, who's one of the House's most moderate Republicans.
But Bass's moderation isn't helping him much: He has even worse 34/49 approvals, though some of that seems to be Republicans who disapprove of him from the right (as seen in that only 62 percent of GOPers approve, but 79 percent will still vote for him). The real problem for Bass might be that there are significantly more undecided Democrats (16 percent) than there are Republicans (9 percent), so a tie is a bad place for Bass to start; that would give Kuster more room to grow than Bass.
When we issued our House Race Ratings several weeks ago, we started NH-01 at "Lean Republican" and NH-02 at "Tossup," based on the previous PPP poll but also on the difference in the districts, the candidates' 2010 margins, and their very different fundraising abilities. This poll (plus the Univ. of New Hampshire poll last month), however, shows that thanks to her name rec from her previous two terms and her grassroots support (along with an assist from an unpopular Guinta), Shea-Porter may actually have the better shot at a pickup here. With that, we're moving NH-01 to "Tossup" as well.