Polls add pressure on ex-Gov. Shaheen to bid for Sununu’s Senate seat in N.H.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and a ramped-up draft movement are upping the pressure on former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) to enter the race against vulnerable Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) as she pulls far ahead in polling.

The DSCC yesterday sent out a release that showed Shaheen, who repeatedly has said she has not made a decision about entering the race, leading Sununu by a whopping 28 percentage points.

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The poll, conducted by the American Research Group (ARG), shows Shaheen leading Sununu 57 percent to 29 percent.
According to another poll conducted by Suffolk University, only 31 percent of Granite State voters support Sununu.

The polls, combined with former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan’s expanded Draft Shaheen movement, are no doubt catching the attention of both the potential challenger and the sitting senator.

“She doesn’t put a lot of stock in the polls,” Shaheen’s husband Billy said. “It might be encouraging, but you can’t count on these things.”

Billy Shaheen added that if the former governor were to enter the race, “she wouldn’t count this as an easy win.”

The DSCC repeatedly has criticized Sununu as legislating in lockstep with President Bush, but DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller said the purpose of releasing the poll results is not to push Shaheen into the race.

“The point is one, he is extremely weak, perhaps the weakest senator in the country, and two, she would make an outstanding candidate,” Miller said.

Miller would not comment on any ongoing discussion the DSCC or its chairman, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), may or may not be having with Shaheen, who currently serves as the director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

Billy Shaheen has said the former governor likely will make a decision before September in order to be fair to the other, announced Democratic candidates.

Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, Katrina Swett and former astronaut Jay Buckey have announced their candidacies, but Marchand has said he will bow out if Shaheen gets in.

The former governor is immensely popular with state Democrats, with the ARG poll showing that 96 percent would support her run. Perhaps more surprisingly, it shows 30 percent of Republicans would also back the Democrat.

Sullivan said that since news of her draft movement started making the rounds a couple of months ago, interest has skyrocketed. The movement has set up www.DraftShaheen.com, started fundraising and hired a staffer.

More than 300 supporters have come forth, and Sullivan said if the former governor does make it official, she will be in a position to “hit the ground running.”

Sullivan said she has seen the new polling information, but she said she has not talked to Shaheen since starting the draft movement.

Sullivan was state party chairwoman during Shaheen’s narrow defeat to Sununu in 2002, which resulted in a number of criminal convictions of Republicans in an Election Day phone-jamming scandal.

“In 2002, a Senate seat was won using dirty tricks and phone jamming,” Sullivan wrote on the draft website. “It’s time for a fair fight.”

Repeated attempts to contact Sununu’s Washington office were unsuccessful.

Since Sununu’s win in 2002, the Granite State has turned increasingly blue.

In 2004, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) defeated Bush in the state 50 percent to 49 percent. In 2000, the president beat former Vice President Al Gore (D) 48 percent to 47 percent, with Green Party challenger Ralph Nader securing 4 percent.

In last year’s midterms, the state’s two Republican congressmen went down to defeat. Rep. Charlie Bass (R) was defeated by Democrat Paul Hodes, and Rep. Jeb Bradley shocked the political world, losing to newcomer Carol Shea-Porter (D).

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