In NH, Hassan opens up big lead over Ayotte in WBUR poll

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CONCORD, NH — The latest WBUR poll shows that Gov. Maggie Hassan has suddenly opened up a 10 point lead on Sen. Kelly Ayotte, as the Republican from Nashua struggles to distance herself from Donald Trump’s controversial rhetoric, a theme that Hassan’s camp has repeatedly pounced upon.

The poll of 609 likely voters, conducted over this past weekend, features a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Hassan’s campaign has most recently tried to tie Trump’s disparaging remarks of a Pakistani-American Gold Star family  to Ayotte. On Thursday morning Hassan’s campaign fired off a press release titled, “Gold Star Mother Rejects Trump and Those Like Ayotte Who Support Him.”

The press release focuses on an op-ed penned by New Hampshire Gold Star mother and Henniker resident Jean Durgin, whose son Sgt. Russell Durgin died in 2006 at age 23 while serving in Afghanistan.

“It is with a heavy heart that I understand the pain of fellow Gold Star families, like Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq while trying to save his fellow soldiers. The bonds we share as parents of fallen soldiers cannot be understated, and I share in their grief,” Durgin wrote, referring to the Khans, who played a major role during the last night of the Democratic National Convention. “Sadly, in what has become the latest example of reckless and unacceptable behavior, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has now gone so far as to attack the Khan family – as one of his top New Hampshire advisers, Al Baldasaro, joins in his disgusting attacks.”

Durgin mentions Ayotte near the end of her op-ed, which ran in the Concord Monitor on Thursday.

“While Sen. Kelly Ayotte released a statement distancing herself from Trump’s comments, I’m deeply disappointed that she continues to support Trump for president,” Durgin wrote. “These are not ordinary times, and Donald Trump is no ordinary candidate.”

Ayotte, however, has never given Trump a full endorsement, although she has said she will vote for whoever wins the GOP presidential nomination. Unfortunately for Ayotte and other vulnerable Republicans, Trump stormed to the top of the crowded list of candidates, culminating in his official nomination in Cleveland last month.

Hassan meanwhile appears committed to hammering home any perceived links between Ayotte and Trump, despite the lack of any semblance of unity between them. Over the weekend Trump told the Washington Post, “we don’t need weak people,” referencing Ayotte, and added that the Granite State senator has given him “zero support.”

The WBUR poll results may prompt Ayotte to continue to further distance herself from Trump, although the numbers show that 42 percent of voters still have a favorable view of her compared to 38 percent unfavorable.