Is There a Correlation Between Poll Numbers and Campaign Donations in NH Governor’s Race?

Everyone knows that money buys elections. And if the poll numbers are right, then that still holds true in the New Hampshire gubernatorial race.

With the latest campaign finance filings released Wednesday, it’s one of the last looks into the candidates war chests before Granite Staters cast their vote in the Tuesday primary. The last reports were filed on Aug. 24 and a lot can happen in two weeks.

For the Republicans, Chris Sununu topped the list, bringing in $58,750 in the last two weeks. In the latest WMUR poll, Sununu was also in the lead with 23 percent of respondents saying he would be their first choice for governor.

Granted, the WMUR survey polled both parties together, asking likely primary voters which gubernatorial candidate they would vote for. So a registered Republican could have picked a Democrat, even though they couldn’t vote for that candidate in the primary. However, the poll numbers still point to a correlation to the total amount of their receipts in the last two weeks.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas was far behind Sununu in total amount in revenue this period. He raised $18,606 in two weeks and he also finished second for Republicans in the poll. He had 14 percent of voters saying they would pick him as their first choice.

Gatsas sees Sununu as his main primary challenger. The two went after each other in the latest debates and both have released ads slamming each other on various issues.

Gatsas’ latest hit on the Executive Councilor was on Thursday, when he tried to link Sununu’s receipt of $18,950 in contributions from 25 Eversource employees to Sununu’s support for the Northern Pass project.

Closely behind Gatsas in campaign contributions is State Sen. Jeanie Forrester. She raised $12,685 during the reporting period and she finished in third for Republicans in the latest poll with 5 percent.

Forrester has come out strong in the debates this week as she pushes her plan to use the New Hampshire National Guard to combat the opioid crisis. She’s talked about sending them to the Texas-Mexico border to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, using them to prevent drugs from coming into New Hampshire via the Canadian and Massachusetts border and also as a tool to assist local law enforcement officials.

There are already some members of the National Guard who assist in the effort to stop the crisis, which Forrester tried to use to stump Gatsas and Sununu during one of the debates.

We’ll see whether her recent debate performance or big endorsements from the New Hampshire Union Leader and former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina can move her up in the ranks.

Businessman Frank Edleblut seems to be the dark horse candidate in the Republican primary. He touts being an outsider in this race and not a “career politician” like his other challengers.

He raised $5,275 in the latest reporting period and garnered 4 percent of the vote in the latest poll.

For the National Guard issue during the debate, Edelblut wasn’t included in any of the attacks, often standing there while Sununu, Gatsas and Forrester went at it. In an election year where being an outsider has been a favorable trait, Edelblut will need to capitalize on that messaging in order to secure the nomination.

On the Democratic side, the money and polls also seem to fall in line.

Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern took in approximately $40,208 in campaign contributions this reporting period, and he received 10 percent of the vote in the WMUR poll.

Mark Connolly, a former top financial watchdog for the state, had a big haul with $19,024, but only 2 percent of voters would pick him as their first choice for governor.

Former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand did not file a campaign finance report with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office on Wednesday, according to officials in the office. He polled at 5 percent with voters.

The biggest problem for the Democrats is that not enough people know who they are in order to form an opinion of them. According to the same WMUR poll, 73 percent of respondents did not know enough about Marchand and Connolly to form a favorable or unfavorable opinion of them. Van Ostern was slightly better at 70 percent.

Secretary of State William Gardner on Thursday predicted that 126,000 voters will cast their ballot in the Republican primary and 86,000 will vote in the Democratic primary. That’s about 23 percent of registered voters.

As voters return from summer vacation and the general election comes closer, the Democratic nominee would need to raise his or her name recognition. In presidential years, statistics show Democrats down-ticket tend to do better, but in a year with the two most unpopular candidates for president, it’s unclear what voters are going to do come Election Day.

Author: Kyle Plantz

Kyle Plantz is a reporter with NH Journal.

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