Last week, Sarah Palin—via a Facebook note—endorsed former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, a Republican Senate candidate facing two other GOPers in a September primary. Palin called Ayotte a "mama grizzly," and Ayotte, in return, praised Palin as "a conservative icon who has brought enormous energy to our Party." Palin's thumb's up appeared to be a boost for Ayotte. But perhaps only in the short term.
Polling conducted after the endorsement shows Ayotte slipping in a match-up against Rep. Paul Hodes, a Democrat running for this Senate seat. Public Policy Polling reports:
Kelly Ayotte's seen her appeal to moderate voters crumble in the wake of her endorsement by Sarah Palin and her lead over Paul Hodes has shrunk to its lowest level of any public polling in 2010—she has a 45-42 advantage over him, down from 47-40 in an April PPP poll.
There's not much doubt that the shift in the race is all about Ayotte. Hodes' favorability numbers have seen little change over the last three months.
The polling firm points to Palin's seal of approval as the probable cause of Ayotte's decline.
The Palin endorsement may well be playing a role in this. 51% of voters in the state say they're less likely to back a Palin endorsed candidate to only 26% who say that support would make them more inclined to vote for someone. Among moderates that widens to 65% who say a Palin endorsement would turn them off to 14% who it would make more supportive.
Ayotte's favorability with moderate voters (the largest group of Granite State voters) has plummeted from +5 at 32/27 to -19 at 27/46. And Hodes' numbers haven't improved at all vs. the other potential GOP candidates—just against Palin-endorsed Ayotte. PPP notes that the Palin endorsement has "certainly helped" Ayotte in the Republican primary, in which she is already the favorite. But the Palin embrace will no doubt be an issue in the general election and, most likely, a liability for Ayotte , if she wins the GOP nomination. And if that does happen, Ayotte might then want to send Palin into hibernation.
Democrats, meanwhile, are rejoicing at PPP's findings. The Democratic National Committee sent out an email this morning about the poll. Its subject line was "Why Sarah Palin endorsements are awesome."
(Last week, Nick Baumann predicted that Palin might be a problem for Ayotte.)