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Tipsheet

NH Poll: Kelly Ayotte Could Face a Major Hurdle in 2016

Isn’t it too early to speculate about 2016 Senate races?

Nope.

Democrats, as it happens, are almost certainly feeling a bit better now that a new poll in the Granite State suggests Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) isn’t a shoe-in for re-election. That is, if -- and perhaps only if -- Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) decides to put her name forward.

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Hassan comfortably won re-election last month. But because executive terms in New Hampshire are only two years long, she may choose to adopt the Jeanne Shaheen strategy -- i.e., run for a Senate seat rather than seek re-election.

Speaking of which, Sen. Shaheen was one of the only Senate Democrats in 2014 to weather the red tsunami that swept away so many of her fellow Obama rubber stamps. This means that New Hampshire is not necessarily susceptible to -- or influenced by -- national electoral trends, adding another interesting X factor into the mix. CNN has the details:

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte might be headed towards a tough reelection battle if the state's Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan, jumps into the race, according to a new poll. The survey, conducted by the New England College Polling Institute for the New Hampshire Journal, gives the Republican 48 percent support among registered voters to Hassan's 43 percent support. Another 4 percent choose someone else, and 5 percent are unsure.

The single-day automated survey, which was conducted on Dec. 1 among 541 New Hampshire registered voters, is just an early snapshot of the race — but it's one that underscores the difficult fight Ayotte has ahead of her to hold onto her seat. Hassan is a top pick for Democrats to take on the senator this cycle, and while she just won reelection to a second term as governor, she hasn't closed the door on a Senate run.

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Of course, unlike Scott Brown, Sen. Ayotte has the advantage of incumbency and actually hailing from the state. These are two factors sorely lacking last election cycle. Hassan, however, has widespread name recognition (she will soon be sworn in for a second term) in a state that is increasingly trending blue.

Needless to say, this could be one of the more interesting match-ups to watch in 2016, especially if Hassan decides to roll the dice.

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