CONCORD, NH — In a primary race that proved nothing is ever a sure thing in politics, Republican Charlie Bass barely eked out a win over conservative underdog Jennifer Horn early Wednesday morning, setting the stage for his matchup with liberal Democratic nominee Ann McLane Kuster in the November election.
In a three-way race with Republican Bob Giuda, Bass’s victory looked uncertain well into the night, when only a single percentage point separated him and Horn. At 12:30 a.m., about two hours after Kuster declared victory in her Democratic primary, Bass told supporters that the gap between him and Horn was growing, and he expected to win his race. At 1 a.m., the Associated Press called the race for Bass.
But in a race where Bass had long been considered a frontrunner by the national media and was running against two opponents splitting the conservative vote, to face a serious challenge from a woman who didn’t have the finances to run television ads must prove a concern for state Republicans.
While Bass did eventually secure the win, there was a point in the night when supporters were quiet and worried, and reporters started drafting stories in case of a Horn victory. Probably not how the former Congressman wanted to stage his comeback.
But when Bass did take the stage, there began to emerge glimpses of the former six-term Congressman who won kudos for his pragmatic leadership and steady, moderate approach to politics. While it’s not his style to dazzle a crowd, he seemed newly energized as he said of national Democrats, ”Madam Speaker, start packing your bags.”
Cheers from moderate Republican supporters — one of whom said Bass has always been “good old Charlie” — buoyed the candidate’s oft-repeated speech about returning to politics to fix Washington and cut government spending.
Bass spoke of making this election “Kuster’s last stand” with a conviction that wasn’t present in his earlier deliveries of the line, and marked the first stages of what will likely be a close and contested November election, in which Bass will try to paint Kuster as a radical, left-wing liberal, and Kuster will portray him as a washed-up D.C. insider.
“I couldn’t stand aside and let this district be represented by two Democrats who are so liberal they make Obama look like Glen Beck,” he said.
And with the GOP nomination called for Bass, his supporters can finally turn their efforts to the ultimate prize: a win on November 2.
Check back later today for Top 5 takeaway points from the race, and photos from the night.
Charlie Bass isn’t doing well in the polls– but “not well” still translates to “better than the Democrats.”
Democrat Katrina Swett dropped in favorability in the overall rankings, but still fares better than her opponent, Ann McLane Kuster, who remains unknown by a fairly shocking 88 percent of respondents, despite the candidate’s fundraising success in the state.
Read the full release of data here.
In the hypothetical matchups, it’s clear that Bass’s earlier mantra that he can win against the Democrats isn’t just talk. According to this poll, he takes a clear lead against both Kuster and Swett.
Charlie Bass 47%
Katrina Swett 30%
Charlie Bass 47%
Anne Kuster 29%
Jennifer Horn 34%
Katrina Swett 32%
Jennifer Horn 35%
Anne Kuster 31%
So what do these numbers mean? Here are my thoughts on what the poll says about each candidate:
- Charlie Bass — The Republican has done a poor job campaigning recently, hasn’t raised a great deal of money and is suffering from the anti-incumbent wave sweeping the country. His unfavorability ranking has jumped about 15 points since the spring. But somehow, he still comes out far ahead of both Democrats in the polls and is now the frontrunner in this race. I’m still not really sure why the lackluster candidate is doing so well, but the numbers speak for themselves.
- Jennifer Horn — The 2008 nominee who lost to current Rep. Paul Hodes has had to work to overcome her “loser” image. But that work has paid off. While she is still fairly unknown among voters (68 percent are neutral or don’t know enough to say), she is making significant gains and remains competitive against both Democrats in matchups. I’m still not prepared to write her off, and if Bass continues to dip in polls, she could have another shot at the seat in November.
- Bob Giuda — Considering the media attention this Republican received in response to comments he made about gay marriage, I’m actually surprised Giuda remains so unknown among voters. But his numbers have remained unchanged since April, and 90 percent of respondents had no opinion of him. Ouch.
- Katrina Swett — While the Democrat remains more competitive against Bass than her opponent, this poll is more bad news for an already embattled candidate. Swett’s unfavorability rating rose about 5 points, and more people now have a negative than positive view of her candidacy. These are fairly unimpressive numbers for a woman who was supposed to be the frontrunner in her primary — and it comes on the heels of battles with her opponent, a disappointing fundraising quarter and media scrutiny of her positions on gay marriage and the Bush tax cuts.
- Ann McLane Kuster — The numbers in this poll were perhaps most troubling for the Democrat who has taken the state by a storm and seemed to be gaining on Swett. Kuster has set state fundraising records, earned numerous endorsements, and has received props for her grassroots efforts. But she is still unknown by a shocking 88 percent of voters. That’s a significant hurdle to overcome, but she’s raised more money than any other candidate so far. Time for her to start using it.
Note: As I mentioned in my last post, I’m no longer following the race from NH. But I’m still writing about it from afar, and you can follow me on Twitter at @primarywire for daily updates on the second district happenings.