Public Policy Polling's newest New Hampshire survey finds that a high powered match up between Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan for the Senate next year would start out as a toss up. Hassan gets 46% to 45% for Ayotte. Independents split evenly in such a contest- Hassan has the slightest of advantages because she wins over 12% of Republicans while Ayotte only gets 8% of Democrats.
There's a much greater spread between Hassan and Ayotte when it comes to approval ratings. Hassan is popular with a 53/34 spread, while voters are considerably more divided on Ayotte with her coming in at 40/43. A large part of the disparity comes from how popular the duo are within their own parties- 85% of Democrats think Hassan is doing a good job compared to only 64% of Republicans who approve of Ayotte. Hassan also has more support across party lines though with 26% of GOP voters approving of her to only 15% of Democrats who give Ayotte good marks. But since most voters ultimately choose their party in a head to head, that's much closer.
Hassan running may be vital to Democrats' ability to make the seat competitive. In a hypothetical contest with the state's Democratic member of Congress, Ann McLane Kuster, Ayotte leads by a 49/38 spread. There has been some discussion about a primary challenge to Ayotte by 2010 foe Ovide Lamontagne but she's not too vulnerable to that, leading him 57/32 in a hypothetical contest. Lamontagne actually does lead Ayotte 53/38 among Tea Party voters, but that's only 21% of the Republican electorate at this point and Ayotte easily dispenses him with everyone else. It's good news for Republicans that Lamontagne's not well positioned for a primary challenge because he trails Hassan 54/35 and Kuster 43/39 in prospective Senate contests.
If Hassan runs for reelection as Governor instead of for the Senate she'll start out in a very strong position. We find her leading the trio of Republicans we tested by anywhere from 17 to 30 points- it's 52/35 over Chris Sununu, 53/36 over Jeb Bradley, and 55/25 over Donnalee Lozeau.