A new poll in a crucial 2022 Senate race that could determine whether the Republicans regain the majority they just lost in the 2020 cycle shows a potential GOP challenger edging the Democratic incumbent.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire holds a 48%-46% advantage over Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in a hypothetical 2022 general election showdown, according to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll released Thursday.
Hassan, Sununu’s predecessor as New Hampshire governor, is running next year for a second six-year term in the Senate.
There’s plenty of speculation that Sununu, who was overwhelming reelected in November to a third two-year term as Granite State governor, may challenge Hassan in 2022 rather than run for reelection as governor.
Sununu’s once dismissive talk of a Senate bid appears to be moderating.
"It’s something that I’m considering," the governor said last week in a radio interview on "Good Morning New Hampshire," about a possible 2022 Senate run. He added that he’s "definitely open to it."
Sununu, the son of former Gov. John H. Sununu and younger brother to former Sen. John E. Sununu, remains very popular in New Hampshire. The survey indicates his approval rating as governor stands at 72%, with a 55%-19% favorable/unfavorable rating. Hassan’s favorable/unfavorable rating in the new poll stands at 42%-38%.
While Sununu's approval rating remains very high and his favorables are superior to Hassan's numbers, the poll indicates a close contest next year.
"New Hampshire is a state that leans Democrat and most people vote their party, especially in national elections," UNH pollster Andrew Smith explained.
As Republicans aim to win back the majority in the chamber from the Democrats in 2022, they’ll be defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs in the next midterm elections. As they play plenty of defense, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) – the reelection arm of Senate Republicans – sees Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire as potential pick-up opportunities to flip a blue seat red.
"This poll confirms what we've already known: Maggie Hassan is beatable and one of the weakest incumbents Democrats have running this cycle," NRSC communications director Chris Hartline told Fox News.
Sununu’s been on the radar of national Republicans for quite some time.
"Republicans in Washington see Sununu as the candidate who can flip the Granite State," a D.C. based GOP consultant told Fox News.
Also on the minds of national Republicans: former Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
Ayotte, a former state attorney general who was elected to the Senate in 2010, lost reelection to Hassan in 2016 by a razor-thin margin of just 1,017 votes.
The poll indicates that Hassan holds a 48%-43% advantage over Ayotte in a potential 2022 rematch.
"Given how well regarded she was as a senator by both parties and given how close the race was last time, I think she will definitely look at the Senate race," a political consultant inside Ayotte’s orbit told Fox News last month.
The only declared Republican in the race at this early point is retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who ran unsuccessfully for the 2020 GOP Senate nomination in New Hampshire. The new poll indicates Hassan leading Bolduc 52%-39% in a hypothetical match up.
The survey also shows Hassan topping Republican Corey Lewandowski 53%-34%. Lewandowski, a top political adviser to former President Trump, has expressed interest in running for governor next year if Sununu runs for Senate, but has shown little interest in mounting a Senate run. He flirted with Senate run during the 2020 cycle.
The poll was conducted Feb. 18-22, with 1,676 New Hampshire voters questioned. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.