Dem poll: Hassan leads Ayotte in NH Senate matchup
© Greg Nash

A poll sponsored by a major Democratic super-PAC shows New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) with a slight lead over Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony Tributes pour in for John McCain MORE (R) in a hypothetical 2016 Senate matchup.

Hassan leads Ayotte 45 percent to 44 percent in the poll released Thursday by the Senate Majority PAC.

Ayotte is a top target for Democrats and faces a tough reelection fight in the blue-leaning state.

“Kelly Ayotte puts her special interest supporters first and her poll numbers show people across New Hampshire taking notice,” Shripal Shah, spokesman for Senate Majority PAC, said in a statement.

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“She’s clearly vulnerable in 2016, especially in a hypothetical race against Governor Hassan.”

Republicans dismissed the poll's findings.

"The release of this bogus survey is further proof that Governor Hassan is coordinating with Washington insiders on a Senate campaign instead of focusing on addressing the state budget crisis that she created," said Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the New Hampshire GOP. 

"Governor Hassan should be very worried about her Senate prospects if she's in a dead heat in one of Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Dems can’t ‘Bork’ Kavanaugh, and have only themselves to blame Dem senator: Confidential documents would 'strongly bolster' argument against Kavanaugh's nomination MORE's cooked up, liberal special interests funded polls."

Two former aides of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) helped launch Senate Majority PAC in 2011 when he was majority leader with the goal of maintaining Democrats' control of the upper chamber. Now that the party is in the minority, it’s pushing to regain the majority.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, shows similar results to an April PPP survey that had Hassan leading 46 percent to 45 percent.

The latest results have Hassan leading among women and independents, according to a release announcing the results. It also finds that New Hampshire voters have a more favorable view of Hassan than Ayotte.

Hassan hasn’t publicly announced her decision on the race, but many Democrats see her as the party’s best shot at taking back the seat and helping retake control of the Senate.

But outside groups have already begun airing ads in the Granite State attacking Ayotte and Hassan. An Indiana and Virginia-based group, Impact America Action, launched a $1 million ad buy in June attacking Hassan’s spending record, according to WMUR in Manchester, months after Crossroads GPS spent almost $300,000 in digital and radio ads bashing Hassan.

Senate Majority PAC has also announced its own “five-figure” digital advertising campaign that frames Ayotte as beholden to special interests.

While Hassan can't fundraise for a bid until she announces, Ayotte's campaign told WMUR that it has more than $3 million in cash on hand after a second-quarter fundraising haul of about $1.2 million. 

PPP polled 715 New Hampshire voters between July 6 and 7 and the poll has a margin of error of about 4 percent.

This story was updated at 5:40 p.m.