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John Gregg: Shaheen Poll Numbers Rise; Brown Says GOP Will Unite

There was some good news for two New Hampshire Democrats in the latest WMUR Granite State Poll released this week.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the former Democratic governor seeking her second term in Washington, has seen a boost in her favorability rating and is leading her potential Republican rivals by double-digits, according to poll numbers released Wednesday by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

And U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., who could face a tough challenge in the second Congressional district, has also seen an increase against three relatively unknown GOP challengers.

Shaheen has seen her favorability rating rise to 57 percent, according to the poll of 509 likely voters. It was conducted between June 19 and July 1, so reaction to the June 30 Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling regarding contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act would not be fully reflected in the numbers.

Shaheen pulled 50 percent of the vote against former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who recently moved to New Hampshire, who pulled 38 percent. Shaheen was leading 57 percent to 34 percent against former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, who moved back from Florida in a bid to regain his seat. And Shaheen holds a 56 percent to 30 percent lead over former state Sen. Jim Rubens, R-Etna.

“The overriding dynamic in this race is that the Republican challengers to incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen are either unknown or unpopular,” the UNH pollsters wrote.

The good news for the GOP is that 69 percent of voters are undecided.

The Brown campaign released a memo Wednesday asserting that he will win strong support from Republicans and Independents — always a key bloc in New Hampshire — should he win the Sept. 9 primary.

“Scott Brown’s path to victory is simple: consolidate the Republican base and split the independent vote. If he can do that, Scott Brown will become the next senator from the state of New Hampshire. Republicans constitute 30 percent of the Granite State electorate, while independents make up 43 percent,” Colin Reed, Brown’s campaign manager, wrote.

But the Shaheen campaign said the numbers show voters know and trust her.

“She’s got deep roots in New Hampshire, raised her family here and her record proves she shares our values,” Shaheen campaign manager Mike Vlacich said in a news release.

In the 2nd Congressional district, which includes the Upper Valley, Kuster has pulled ahead of potential rivals and has a slight lead among independents. Against former state Sen. Gary Lambert, R-Nashua, Kuster polls 45 percent to his 36 percent. Kuster has 49 percent support to 35 percent for state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem. And she pulls 47 percent support compared to 35 percent for former state Rep. Jim Lawrence, R-Hudson.

All in a Name

The decision by the board of Fletcher Allen Partners to change its name to The University of Vermont Health Network this fall means two prominent Vermont names will be a little less so.

The Burlington medical center that had been once known as Mary Fletcher Hospital goes back to 1876, when Mary Fletcher helped build the first hospital in Vermont and named it for her mother, Mary L. Fletcher.

The “Allen” comes from a Colchester hospital that was built in 1894 and named Fanny Allen Hospital in 1894 — after Ethan Allen’s daughter. Fletcher Allen spokesman Mike Noble said they will still be known as the Mary Fletcher building and the Fanny Allen campus, respectively, but that the overall name change is intended to highlight a health network that is now a four-hospital system, including facilities in Barre, Vt., and Plattsburgh and Elizabethtown, N.Y.

“When somebody realizes and sees their hospital is part of an academic medical center health network, they are more likely to use it, more likely to think highly of it, and more likely to recommend it to others to use,” Noble said.

In case you were wondering, Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, which dates to the 1890s, was named for the wife of Hiram Hitchcock, a successful hotelier in New York who moved to Hanover and was president of Dartmouth National Bank and a Dartmouth College trustee.

A spokesman for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center said he knows of no plans for any name change.

Briefly Noted

∎  Former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Middlebury Republican, is coming out with an autobiography in September titled The Vermont Way It’s being published by Chris Bray, a Democratic state senator from Addison County with a background in publishing.

∎ Belated congratulations to Hanover Democrat John Chamberlin, who won a top award at New Hampshire Democrats’ state convention last month for his political service. The longtime head of Upper Valley Democrats has long been a hardworking grassroots activist.