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Welcome to the latest edition of THE 603.
 
It’s the final weekend before the midterm elections, and if you believe the latest polls, the race for governor is tightening up and the battle for the 1st CD is tied up.
 
Early voting records are shattering across the county. While that won’t happen in New Hampshire – one of only 13 states that doesn’t offer “no-excuse” absentee ballots or other kinds of early voting – longtime Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s predicting turnout will top a half a million voters for the first time ever in a midterm election.
 
And here in the 603, the state that for a century has held the first primary in the race for the White House, we’re seeing a parade of potential Democratic presidential contenders parachuting in to assist fellow Democrats on the ballot and help energize Election Day turnout. Of course, it goes without saying the midterms aren’t the only reason these likely White House hopefuls are paying visits.
 
But wait, there’s more. Chris Christie returned to New Hampshire. While he’s not running in 2020, he had plenty to say.

OK, enough of the small talk. Let’s get to the news.

Sununu’s edge narrowing
What seemed like a clear advantage for Republican Gov. Chris Sununu just a week ago doesn’t seem so certain anymore. An Emerson College 
poll released mid-week indicated the governor up by eight percentage points over Democratic challenger Molly Kelly, a former five-term state senator 

And Friday, a partisan poll commissioned by the New Hampshire Democratic Party suggested the race virtually tied. The surveys came on the same week as the two candidates debated twice, including their only televised showdown. 
Concord Monitor

 

And it came as the Republican Governor’s Association shelled out some $800,000 to run a spot slamming Kelly WMUR Union Leader

It looks like the 1st CD’s living up to its reputation
New Hampshire’s First Congressional District is one of the most high profile swing districts in the country, flip-flopping between Democrat and Republican control the past four elections and five out of the last six. It’s also an open seat for the first time in 16 years and is one of only a dozen districts across the country controlled by the Democrats that President Donald Trump carried in 2016. Executive Councilor and Democratic nominee Chris Pappas enjoyed high single digit leads over GOP nominee Eddie Edwards in polling earlier this month. But this week’s Emerson survey suggested a race within the sampling error. Plus, the House Majority PAC went up with a big ad buy attacking Edwards. It looks like the First District is right back where it’s supposed to be – a toss-up. 
WMUR Concord Monitor NHPR 
 
Record turnout predicted
Bill Gardner, the longest serving secretary of state in the nation and a person who’s known nationally for protecting New Hampshire’s treasured first-in-the-nation presidential primary status, predicts some 540,000 people will vote in the midterms in the Granite State. That would easily break the midterm record of 495,000 ballots cast, just four years ago.

AP
 
Bernie’s coming back
Sen. Bernie Sanders returns to New Hampshire this Sunday, just two days before the Nov. 6 election. The independent senator from Vermont will headline a get-out-the-youth-vote rally at the University of New Hampshire in Durham at noon. The event’s being organized by the New Hampshire Youth Movement and Rights and Democracy groups.
Sanders then heads to Manchester, where he’s scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. at a gathering at the Brookside Congregational Church in Manchester. Sanders was last in New Hampshire on Labor Day, when he keynoted the annual AFL-CIO breakfast for the fifth straight year.
None of the state’s all-Democrat congressional delegation or the party’s nominees for Congress and governor will join Sanders, as the organizers of the events he’s headlining are structured as 501(c)(3) non-profits, which prevent them from conducting partisan political events.
An hour after Sanders kicks off his UNH event, the New Hampshire Democratic Party will hold their own get-out-the-vote rally in Manchester. That event will include Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, 2nd Congressional District Rep. Annie Kuster, Pappas and Kelly.

Did Hickenlooper jump the gun?
Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sounds like he’s moving closer to a run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
 
“In terms of 2020, we’re certainly looking at it and most of the Democratic candidates are from the east coast or the west coast. They’re not too many from the middle of the country. And not so many that have been a major and have been a governor and have started a business,” Hickenlooper told the Monitor on Wednesday, during a one day trip to New Hampshire.
 
The term-limited governor said an announcement would happen after he finishes up his second term at the beginning of the year.
 
“I think we’re going to wait until February or March to make a final decision but we’ve certainly been spending a lot more time thinking about it and I think getting more excited.
Hickenlooper shared that his wife may be even more enthusiastic about his running than he is right now.
 
“The first thing you do is look at your family’s desires and security. I think my wife might be more excited that I am. She’s a businesswoman, has her own career. But she loves this country, loves politics. And she’s ready to go I think,” he said.
 
Hickenlooper headlined a get-out-the-vote rally in Plymouth and campaigned with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Molly Kelly in Manchester. He started his day in the Granite State by campaigning with state Senate District 16 incumbent Kevin Cavanaugh and Executive Council District 4 Democratic nominee Grey Chynoweth at Robie’s Country Store in Hooksett.
 
That’s where Hickenlooper appeared to jump the gun, telling two employees that he was running for president, before walking back his comments. His political action committee later explained that the governor was joking and that he had not yet made a decision. 
WATCH: Hickenlooper jokingly jumps the gun and here 
WATCH: Hickenlooper on his 2020 timetable and finally, WATCH: Hickenlooper takes aim at Trump’s divisive language.
 
Swalwell stops in NH
Congressman Eric Swalwell of California says he expects to decide on a White House run as 2018 turns into 2019. “I want to see how we do in the midterms, kind of take a pulse of the country. See where the country is,” the 37-year old three-term congressman from California explained during a stop in Portsmouth. “It’s a big decision,” he added. “But I would expect that decision would happen right at the turn of the year.”
 
But sounding like a presidential candidate, the member of the House Intelligence Committee added that “I think that our country does need new energy, new ideas, a much needed new confidence. And that’s something I think in my experience growing up, my work in the Congress, my work as a prosecutor, my work in the Russia investigation, as shown that I can bring.”

Fosters Daily Democrat 
WATCH
: Swalwell on his 2020 timetable 
WATCH: Swalwell takes aim at Trump 
 
Booker’s moral moment 
Speaking in New Hampshire one day after a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said “we are in a moral moment in America.”

AP
WATCH: Booker says ”we all need to be mindful of what we’re saying” 
WATCH: Booker on his 2020 timetable
 
Merkely makes his fifth trip to NH this year
The progressive senator from Oregon opens up about his 2020 timetable

Fosters
WATCH: Merkley on 2020 
WATCH: Merkley on Trump’s rhetoric
 
2020 fever heats up
Potential Democratic presidential contenders fan out to early voting primary/caucus states with the midterms closing in 
Fox News
 
Chris Christie speaks his mind in NH
The former New Jersey governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate opened up about President Trump’s divisive language, and his own political future, as he spoke with yours truly during his first visit back to New Hampshire in two years.

AP
WATCH: Christie says “I doubt I’m done with public life” 
WATCH: Christie takes aim at Pennsylvania officials for not meeting with Trump after synagogue shooting
WATCH: Christie on Trump’s divisive language 

Thanks as always for sharing with friends and colleagues, please point anyone and everyone to sign up 
here. Before we go, a shout out to Citizens Count and their work helping inspire NH citizens to make a difference. And nationally Vote 411 will give you everything you need to know about your candidates, where they stand on the issues, and will even help you with a personalized ballot to take with you when you vote. That's all we've got, have a great weekend; you can follow Paul Steinhauser, NH's most versatile political news reporter, here, and contact THE 603 co-founder & publisher, Kieran Baker, here.