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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Obama makes call, hoping NH voters make call for Dems

CONCORD – President Barack Obama tried on the eve of today’s election to infuse late momentum into Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Paul Hodes’ campaign and help block a Republican wave from drowning his party’s majority status in New Hampshire.

In a conference call Monday night, Obama called congressman Hodes “tough, principled, independent” and urged supporters to ignore the polls showing Hodes trailing badly to Republican nominee Kelly Ayotte of Nashua.

“Now is not the time to get discouraged by pundits and polls, it is time to keep fighting,” Obama said.

The president noted GOP and conservative groups spent a record amount on attack ads against Hodes, an early supporter of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“Outside groups have spent $5 million against Paul in this race,” Obama began. “Why is that? Because they know Paul is not on their side and they are right; Paul has been on your side.

“Paul has been standing on your side and now he needs you to stand on his side.”

Despite their personal friendship, Obama insisted Hodes was not a knee-jerk supporter.

“New Hampshire needs a senator that reflects New Hampshire’s values: tough, principled, independent, that is what reflects Paul Hodes,” Obama said.

Hodes said fighting for the middle class was a hallmark of his four years in Washington and this 16-month campaign, embracing national health care reform and opposing Wall Street bailouts.

“I stand up for what is right, no matter if it isn’t politically easy,” Hodes said.

Top Democratic candidates crisscrossed the state pushing for strong turnout from their base in the wake of a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll released Monday night that showed a tightening race for governor and a 2nd Congressional District battle that was too close call.

As in every poll since this race began, three-term Gov. John Lynch led with 49 percent to 41 percent for Republican rival John Stephen of Manchester.

But this could lead to a shocking upset if nearly all undecided voters break the challenger’s way, said survey center director Andrew Smith.

“Along with the anti-Democratic mood we are seeing in New Hampshire, Lynch will be fortunate to pull this one out,” said Smith of his poll done for WMUR-TV.

Lynch was surely not doing a calm victory lap on the way to a historic fourth term as he pounded away at opponent Stephen at a rally with supporters at the City of Concord’s Auditorium.

“We need your help. It’s going to be close,” Lynch told about 100 supporters munching on finger food sandwiches and cookies. “We need you working hard, and if you do – and I know you will – we will continue to make New Hampshire the special state that it is.”

Lynch claimed Stephen would cut state aid to public schools, slash spending for the human services safety net and restrict a woman’s reproductive freedom.

“John Stephen wants to make criminal abortion even in cases of rape and incest,” Lynch said. “That’s not right. That’s not who we are as a state, and we aren’t going to let him do that, are we?”

In this race, Stephen has only said he would sign legislation requiring a parent be notified before a minor girl has an abortion.

First lady Susan Lynch revealed her husband’s decision to run again this fall wasn’t her idea, but she fully supported it.

“This has been a tough campaign and considerably hard for me. It hasn’t always been fun, but nonetheless, the stakes are very, very high and that keeps me focused,” Susan Lynch said.

“Those of you who know me know I didn’t really embrace having a public life, but I supported John’s decision to go for a fourth term because he’s such a good governor. He cares deeply about the state and wants to help us through this recession into a brighter moment where we are all going to benefit.”

The same UNH poll had Ayotte leading Hodes, 54 percent to 36 percent with 1 percent each for Libertarian Ken Blevens of Bow and independent Chris Booth of Canterbury and 8 percent undecided.

Second Congressional District Democratic nominee Ann McLane Kuster of Hopkinton started an 18-hour campaign day meeting voters at a diner in the North County city of Berlin and ended speaking to students and Cheshire County Democrats at Keene State College almost on the Vermont and Massachusetts borders.

“I think it’s an extremely important election for young people. They get that if Republicans take over all the progress that’s been made to make college financially possible for them is at risk,” Kuster said.

Kuster also visited the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, where her father-in-law spent the last five years of his life.

Despite sometimes bitter exchanges, Kuster said the race hasn’t spoiled a three-decade relationship her family has had with Republican Charles Bass, a close colleague to Kuster’s late mother, state Sen. Susan McLane, who also ran against Bass for this seat in 1980.

“It’s been very civil between the two of us,” Kuster said. “We have both described this campaign as a clear choice on the issues. He’s had his chance, 12 years in Congress, I don’t think voters want to give him back the keys.”

Kuster and Bass were locked in a dead heat, according to the UNH poll with 43 percent for Kuster and 40 percent for Bass, within the poll’s 4.6 percent margin of error,

Libertarian Howard Wilson of Andover got 3 percent, independent Tim Van Blommesteyn of Wilmont got 2 percent, another candidate got 1 percent and 11 percent were undecided.

In the 1st District race, former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, a Republican, led with 46 percent in the UNH poll against two-term Democratic congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter of Rochester, who had 36 percent.

Smith noted Shea-Porter had closed the gap slightly since the center’s most recent poll.

Libertarian Philip Hodson of Manchester had 2 percent, 2 percent supported someone else and the other 12 percent were undecided.

Democratic and Republican Party get-out-the vote offices got hit by telephone outages that rendered in-house phones unusable for hours Monday, forcing them to switch to personal cell phones to reach voters, officials said.

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.