New Hampshire already in campaign mode

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – While the presidential primary race has consumed the spotlight, New Hampshire’s congressional campaigns also are well under way.

Republicans hope last year’s elections – which swept Democrats Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter into office – were an aberration, the result of anger over the war in Iraq and Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s high approval ratings. But Hodes and Shea Porter are confident they will hold their seats now that voters have had a taste of a Democratically controlled Congress.

Of the two seats, Shea-Porter’s 1st District seat is considered more vulnerable. Republican Jeb Bradley, who lost to Shea-Porter in 2006, has been gearing up for a rematch. He has been making the rounds of GOP meetings and picnics, and recently sent out a campaign letter that reaped more than $50,000 in contributions.

Shea-Porter, who won by building a grassroots network on a shoestring budget, said she isn’t focused on fundraising and that she doesn’t know how much money she raised in the fundraising quarter that ended July 1.

“We just put one letter out, and obviously we plan to run the same kind of campaign that we ran before, which is message over money.”

Before Bradley can face Shea-Porter, however, he may contend with a Republican primary challenger. There’s been talk that Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen will seek the nomination, which he lost to Bradley in 2002.

In the 2nd District, Republican state Sen. Bob Clegg of Hudson also is considering a run. Though he said he hasn’t made up his mind, he had plenty of campaign quips at the ready, calling Hodes and Shea-Porter the “Pelosi twins” for having voted with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a range of issues.

The chairman of the state Republican Party said he feels confident that the GOP will pick up at least one of the seats.

“Everyone acknowledges that the First District is slightly more Republican leaning than the Second District, but they’re both competitive,” Fergus Cullen said.

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