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Politics: There's an early frontrunner for marquee Senate race of 2022

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New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is openly weighing the possibility of taking on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan next November, a race that would immediately become the best -- and likely one of the closest -- of the coming midterm election.

  There's an early frontrunner for marquee Senate race of 2022 © Provided by CNN

"I am open to it. We haven't completely shut the door," Sununu told a local radio station recently, adding: "I have to look at what is the job in the Senate? Does it fit my skill set of good management and all that?"

Sununu is a dream recruit for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as he seeks to retake the majority his party lost in the 2020 election. Not only is Sununu extremely popular in the state, but he also carries a very well-known last name in the Granite State. His father, John H. Sununu, was the governor of the state as well as chief of staff to former president George H.W. Bush. His brother, John E. Sununu, was a single-term senator from New Hampshire. He won the seat in 2002 and lost it to former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) in 2008.

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Hassan, meanwhile, is one of the only Democrats up in 2022 who is widely regarded as vulnerable. She beat Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) in 2016 by just 1,017 votes while taking only 48% of the overall vote. (An independent candidate took 2%.)

New Hampshire is still considered a swing state nationally too. While President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump by 8 points there in 2020, Sununu was reelected to a third term by more than 30 points on that same ballot. (New Hampshire holds gubernatorial elections every two years.) And Hillary Clinton edged Trump by just .3 points in the 2016 presidential race.

If Sununu does run, expect the race to break all previous spending records in New Hampshire. The 2016 race between Hassan and Ayotte saw almost $130 million spent between the two candidates as well as various outside organizations. (Don't forget that southern New Hampshire is covered by the decidedly pricey Boston media market!) A Sununu-Hassan race would likely easily eclipse that sum.

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Of course, Sununu isn't in the race yet. And even if he does run, it's not entirely clear he would have the primary field to himself as Ayotte, who lost to Hassan five years ago, continues to think about a rematch.

But the prospect of his candidacy immediately jumps New Hampshire to the top of the list of potential Republican pickups in 2022. And remember that the shift of a single seat from Democratic to Republican would hand the majority back to Republicans.

Currently, Inside Elections, a nonpartisan campaign handicapper, rates the New Hampshire seat as one of four "battleground seats" held by Democrats along with Arizona's Mark Kelly, Georgia's Raphael Warnock and Nevada's Catherine Cortez Masto. Inside Elections rates four GOP-held seats in that same "battleground" category: Florida's Marco Rubio and Wisconsin's Ron Johnson as well as open seats in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

The news about Sununu's interest will be welcome to McConnell and Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who runs the Republican Senate campaign committee -- particularly after former Sen. David Perdue (R) abruptly announced earlier this week that he would not take on Warnock in 2022.

Senate Nears Saturday Passage After All-Nighter: Stimulus Update .
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