GOP Primary Race for New Hampshire Senate Seat Wide Open

A new poll suggests former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, has a good shot at knocking off Democrat Paul Hodes for the state's U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Judd Gregg.

The Granite State's GOP primary, however, may prove no picnic for Ayotte.

A WMUR/University of New Hampshire survey shows Ayotte leading Hodes 41 percent to 33 percent. The poll, conducted from Jan. 27 through Feb. 3, surveyed 444 likely general election voters and carried a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percent.

The Real Clear Politics Average, a compilation of polls widely consulted by political professionals, also has Ayotte up by about 8 percentage points.

However, New Hampshire Republicans tell Fox News the GOP primary is far from locked up. As one insider put it, the contest is "a competitive race among politically astute voters, where the winner will probably have less than 100,000 votes."

Other Republicans in the race include Ovide LaMontagne, a 1996 Republican gubernatorial nominee, and William Binnie, a wealthy industrialist who has already put more than a million dollars into his campaign. Indeed, at this early stage, Binnie has begun airing television ads, trying to introduce himself to voters.

New Hampshire Republicans profess themselves happy with the competition, though, with one party operative telling Fox News: "All the heat and interest will be on our side. It's a good way to get our base excited, as if [President] Obama hasn't already done enough of that."