But civil it is not. Shea-Porter's opening general-election gambit was a negative ad just two days after Guinta won the GOP primary, saying Guinta is "funded by the billionaire Koch brothers and sided with big oil and the wealthiest every time." Local news channel WMUR said "tension and animosity" were "high" at the pair's first debate and that neither of the candidates "really wanted to look at each other."
In a statement to National Journal, Shea-Porter pointed to Guinta's positions on abortion and climate change and said, "Frank Guinta is flying the Tea Party flag for the third time and is too extreme for our state."
Guinta, who hasn't run a negative ad against Shea-Porter yet though outside GOP groups have run them on his behalf, dismisses the attacks. "That's old hat," he said of Shea-Porter's approach. "I understand that—but when the two of us are together I think we can look at each other and say, 'Okay.' "
Perhaps that calm comes from polling that gives Guinta reason to hope he'll be successful at ousting Shea-Porter yet again: An August survey from the University of New Hampshire found Guinta leading by 4 points, 45 percent to 41 percent, while a late September New England College poll found them tied.
But that's not so much because they like him. As University of New Hampshire pollster Andy Smith puts it, there are still some voters who say they don't have an opinion about the candidates—and many of those who do aren't exactly thrilled about them. In UNH's last Granite State Poll, Shea-Porter's favorability ratings stood at 42 percent favorable, 30 percent unfavorable. Guinta was almost even, with 30 percent favorable and 29 percent unfavorable.
"Democrats don't like Shea-Porter. Republicans don't like Guinta," Smith said. "It's going to be kind of a meat grinder of an election. Two people who aren't really popular, aren't really well-liked "¦ it's going to be ugly."
Perhaps that's why this district is so prone to tossing its elected officials. In 2006, 2010, and 2012, incumbent members lost in accordance with the national wave of the time: Shea-Porter first ran for the seat in 2006, riding that year's Democratic wave into victory over incumbent Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley. Guinta challenged her in 2010, when the GOP wave crested and ushered him and fellow state Republicans Charlie Bass and Kelly Ayotte into office. Then in 2012, Shea-Porter challenged Guinta and took the seat back as President Obama won another term on the national level.
"I doubt that there's another district that has this kind of dynamic where the candidates know each other so well and the voters know the candidates so well," said Kathy Sullivan, a former New Hampshire Democratic Party chairwoman and current Democratic National Committee member.
It's not just the 1st District, either. New Hampshire as a whole is often seen as an early-warning system for a national wave. It's known for being sensitive to the national environment, particularly opinions toward the president. And with Obama taking hits for his handling of foreign policy among other things, Republicans expect an anti-Washington lift for not only Guinta but GOP Senate nominee Scott Brown and the entire Republican ticket here too. In other words, if Guinta does well, it's likely his whole party will too.