On the Trail: Biden leads Trump; debate between Volinsky and Feltes gets personal

  • Democratic State Senator Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, bothy vying to take on Gov. Chris Sununu in the general election, debated in-person, outside of the State House this week. Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

  • Democratic State Senator Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, bothy vying to take on Gov. Chris Sununu in the general election, debated in-person, outside of the State House this week. Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 7/30/2020 5:19:24 PM

With fewer than 100 days to go until November’s general election, a new survey indicates Democratic challenger Joe Biden appears to have a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump in the general election battleground state of New Hampshire.

According to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center online poll released Thursday, 53% of likely voters in the Granite State are backing the former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee, with 40% supporting the Republican incumbent in the White House. Four percent say they’ll vote for another candidate and 3% are undecided.

The UNH survey was conducted July 16-28, and questioned 1,893 likely New Hampshire voters. Biden’s 13-percentage point advantage over the president is unchanged from the previous UNH poll, which was conducted last month. A live telephone operator poll conducted last month by Saint Anselm College showed Biden holding a smaller 7-point advantage over Trump.

“Biden leads Trump by significant margins among younger voters and women, particularly those with a college degree,” UNH Survey Center Director Andrew Smith said. “Nearly half of likely voters say they have definitely decided to vote for Biden.”

Smith emphasized that 82% of likely voters in New Hampshire say they have decided whom they will vote for, which is in contrast to the summer of 2016, when only 60% of likely voters reported they had “definitely decided.”

Four years ago a UNH poll conducted in early August indicated 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton topping then-GOP standard-bearer Trump by nine points. And the school’s final poll on the eve of the November election put Clinton up 11 points over Trump. Clinton edged Trump by less than 3,000 votes out of some three-quarters of a million cast to capture the state’s four electoral votes.

Smith noted that in the wake of the 2016 election, the UNH Survey Center now weighs its interviews by education as well as by age, gender, regions of the state, and party registration.

Looking past the top-line number, the new survey indicates Biden leading by 94 points among Democrats and 10 points among independent or undeclared voters, with the president ahead by 78 points among Republicans. The former vice president tops Trump by 35 points among voters 18 to 34 and by 22 points among voters 65 and older, with those between the age of 35-64 split between the two presidential candidates. The survey shows Biden with a whopping 32-point advantage among women and Trump with a 7-point edge among men.

By a 51%-35% margin, likely voters say they think Biden will win New Hampshire.

“However, perceptions about who will win the national election are much closer – 44% think Biden will win while 39% think Trump will win,” Smith noted.

The new survey was released hours before Trump was scheduled to hold a tele-rally with supporters in New Hampshire on Thursday evening.

The president was supposed to appear at an in-person rally in New Hampshire on July 11, which would have been only his second in-person rally – following a June Tulsa, Oklahoma, gathering – since the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation in March. But the rally in Portsmouth was postponed the day before the event due to stormy weather that never materialized. No rescheduled date has yet to be set.

Poll: Sununu, Shaheen hold large leads

The UNH Survey Center poll also asked about New Hampshire’s state-wide races – and indicates that Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen are currently in the driver’s seat as they each run for re-election this year.

Shaheen – the former governor who’s running for a third, six-year term representing New Hampshire in the Senate – leads attorney Bryant “Corky” Messner and retired Brig. Gen Don Bolduc by identical 54%-35% margins in potential November showdowns. The two Republican challengers will face off in the state’s Sept. 8 primary, with the winner running against Shaheen in the general election.

Just over half of all Republican voters questioned said they didn’t know enough about Bolduc to form an opinion. Four in 10 Republican voters said the same thing about Messner. His lower unsure percentage is probably due to his TV commercials and his endorsement by Trump.

In the gubernatorial race, Sununu leads state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, 59%-28% and tops Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky 58%-29% in hypothetical general election matchups.

Half of Democratic voters didn’t know enough about Volinsky to form an opinion – with 45% saying the same thing about Feltes.

Sununu is running for a third, two-year term as governor.

The survey did not include head-to-head matchups in the Republican Senate and Democratic gubernatorial primaries.

Debating amid a pandemic

Feltes and Volinsky faced off for the first time in-person on Wednesday evening, as they took part in a Democratic gubernatorial primary debate hosted by NHTalkRadio.com.

Feltes, Volinsky, and news-talk radio host Chris Ryan – who moderated the debate – each wore masks as they sat socially distanced outside of the Barley House in downtown Concord, across the street from the State House.

Asked if they would send their children to school this autumn the pandemic, both instead took aim at Sununu – and both used the same football analogy.

“We just don’t know, because Chris Sununu punted it all to the local level. He absolved himself of responsibility,” Feltes said.

Volinsky said that “it depends on where you are and what information becomes available about the schools which your kids will go to… There is no plan. Sununu and (state education commissioner Frank) Edelblut punted. That’s a problem. And it’s different in different parts of the state.”

Feltes – a former legal aid attorney – took aim at Volinsky as they differed over enhanced unemployment insurance during the pandemic. Feltes criticized Volinksy this week after the councilor questioned whether the $600 per week federal benefits should continue at that level.

“This election is about who’s side are you on – working people and working families. You got to be on their side full time, not part time. That’s what this election is all about,” Feltes said.

Volinsky, firing back as he touted his long record assisting working-class people and fighting for economic justice.

“No one gets to claim that mantle in this race,” Volinsky said. “We’re both committed to working-class people.”

Feltes responded that while he respects Volinsky’s career, “it is true that Councilor Volinsky has served as a corporate attorney for decades. That’s true.”

Volinsky shot back.

“No one believes that I’m a heartless corporate lawyer,” Volinsky said. “I happen to have a legal career that’s four times as long as Dan’s. It’s been a distinguished career and I’m proud of it. I’m not going to defend against the spurious allegation that I’m some nasty corporation lawyer. It just doesn’t stick.”

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