By HOLLY RAMER
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A new poll suggests New Hampshire voters are starting to sour on at least one of the Republicans they elected to Congress in November – Rep. Charlie Bass.
The WMUR Granite State poll shows a sharp shift in the 2nd Congressional District, where the percentage of those with a favorable opinion of Bass has dropped from 41 percent in February to 29 percent late last month. At the same time, the percentage with an unfavorable opinion of Bass grew from 28 percent to 45 percent, putting his net favorability rating at minus 16.
Pollster Andrew Smith attributed much of Bass’s drop to the district’s demographics – it tends to lean more Democratic than the 1st District – and to the fact that Ann McLane Kuster, the Democrat Bass defeated by fewer than 4,000 votes in November, already is re-building her campaign. Bass had regained the seat he held for 12 years before getting ousted along with other Republicans in 2006.
“It’s as though the campaign never ended,” said Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center.
Smith said it’s telling that the percentage of conservatives with a favorable opinion of Bass has dropped from 56 percent in February to 39 percent.
“He’s out of a step a bit with the Republican leadership and with the dynamics of the Republican Party nationwide. He’s a moderate, New England Republican, and that fits in with the district in most times,” Smith said. But now, Republicans are looking for somebody to go after Obama who they blame for a bad economy.
“Bass is just not that kind of red-meat conservative to get them enthusiastic,” he said.
The poll was conducted April 15-26, just after Bass and 1st District Rep. Frank Guinta helped pass a GOP budget plan that would replace Medicare with a government payment to buy private insurance. That provision has stirred opposition around the country, and both Bass and Guinta faced criticism at recent town hall meetings.
Public opinion of Guinta, however, hasn’t eroded to the same degree as it has for Bass. The percentage of adults holding a favorable opinion of him was 31 percent in the latest poll – about even with the February results, though those with an unfavorable opinion inched up, causing his net favorability rating to drop from 8 percent to 5 percent. Carol Shea-Porter, the Democrat Guinta ousted in November, announced last month she is running again. Joanne Dowdell, an investment firm executive from Portsmouth, plans to challenge her for the nomination.
Both New Hampshire senators – Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and newly elected Republican Kelly Ayotte – remain popular, with nearly half of those polled having favorable opinions of each. More people have an unfavorable opinion of Shaheen, however, bringing her net favorability down to 12 percent, compared to 24 percent for Ayotte.
The telephone poll of 504 adults was conducted April 15-26 and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points overall, and 6 percentage points for subgroups.