- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

New Hampshire Sen. Robert C. Smith's coolness toward Rep. John E. Sununu, the man who beat him in the Republican senatorial primary, is costing Mr. Sununu 3 percentage points going into Tuesday's election, according to a new poll that will be released today.
But a variety of factors suggest Mr. Sununu will eke out a victory over Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, said Andrew E. Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, who conducted the Oct. 23-29 poll of 680 likely voters.
Mrs. Shaheen leads Mr. Sununu by 46 percent to 42 percent, within the poll's error margin of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
"That 3 percentage-point edge she has is made up of normal, standard Republican voters that should be Sununu voters," the UNH pollster said.
Although he endorsed Mr. Sununu after the primary, Mr. Smith and some of his loyal supporters in the state remain peeved over Mr. Sununu's unprecedented White House-backed primary challenge of an incumbent Republican senator.
Polls last year and early this year showed that Mr. Sununu stood a far better chance than Mr. Smith of defeating Mrs. Shaheen in the general election.
Mr. Smith who bolted the party briefly for an independent presidential bid in 2000 has declined to campaign for Mr. Sununu and even turned down White House offers of an ambassadorship or a role in the Bush administration if he would join the president in campaigning for Mr. Sununu.
Mr. Bush is scheduled to be in New Hampshire for Mr. Sununu and other Republican candidates today.
"If I had to bet, the underlying dynamics favor Sununu," said Mr. Smith, the pollster. "There are more Republicans running for the state House and Senate, so that will bring out more Republican voters.
"Also, there are more Republican voters than Democrats in the state, and Republicans are older, have higher incomes and own homes, so they have more favorable turnout characteristics," he said.
The UNH poll found the that 7 percent of the voters were still undecided, which is "fairly high so late in the contest."
Further handicapping Mr. Sununu, however, is the Libertarian Party candidate, who is garnering 2 percent of the vote.
"No Democrat in the survey said he was voting for the Libertarian," the pollster said. "If you squeeze likely voters a little more to find which ones are definitely going to vote, Sununu does better, with Shaheen leading among these definite voters by 46 [percent] to 44 percent. Turnout will be a factor, with a low turnout better for Sununu."
Meanwhile, the Smith write-in movement spawned by his disgruntled supporters does not appear to have picked up momentum, and some prominent Republicans who backed him in the primary are going out of their way to show support for Mr. Sununu now.
"I did not think that Bob should be challenged, and I was concerned that it might split the party," said former New Hampshire Republican party Chairman Gerald P. Carmen in urging the state's Republican voters to coalesce behind Mr. Sununu.
The administration and Senate Republicans are being careful about not leaning too hard on Mr. Smith because he still has leverage. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott has called for a lame-duck session of Congress after the elections to deal with appropriations and with electing the Republican Senate leadership for next year.
Mr. Smith will still be the Republican senator from New Hampshire during that lame-duck session.

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