November 27, 2006
DON'T BLINK OR YOU'LL MISS IT:
New Hampshire Is Middle America (DAVID SHRIBMAN, November 27, 2006, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Only a few weeks ago, when summer still seemed visible in the rear view mirror, this was a Republican state â€” not quite as conservative as it had been a generation ago, when Barry Goldwater felt comfortable enough in New Hampshire to put forward ideas on privatizing Social Security that go even further than President Bush's, but Republican enough to have a certain party purity to it. The congressional delegation was 100% Republican, the state House was 100% Republican, and the state Senate was 100% Republican.
That's gone. New Hampshire's voters elected two Democratic House members for the first time since 1912, and at the same moment, for the first time since 1911, these same voters installed Democrats in both the state Senate and state House. States turn over their political complexions all the time and we hardly notice. When it happens in New Hampshire, we can't afford not to notice.
Sobering thought, but true: The New Hampshire primary, the nation's first, is only 14 months away. It is here, amid the pines and birches and the newly ascendant Democrats, that candidates will test their messages and then be tested themselves. And though you know that Iowa's caucuses come first, and the caucuses in Nevada, a newcomer to early presidential politics, now come next, remember that New Hampshire's primary has a special quality that makes it a model for the national contest in November 2008: Independents can vote here.
That's important. The Democratic caucuses in Iowa are almost certainly going to be dominated by the left. The United Auto Workers are an important force in the state, skewing the trade debate, and anti-war forces in Ames and Iowa City are going to draw the Democrats leftward. The Republican caucuses in Iowa are almost certainly going to be dominated by the right, and almost certainly by religious conservatives, who since 1988 have mastered the rhythm of these peculiar Monday evening contests. Senator Santorum may have won only about 40% of the vote in his re-election fight in Pennsylvania, but 40% in the Iowa caucuses is a very big number. He may be out of the Senate beginning in January, but he's still a political giant.
The message of the midterm congressional elections is that the middle counts, and New Hampshire is well-positioned to move the campaign back toward the center.
Which is why a challenge from Hillary's Left or McCain's Right is likely to be futile. Meanwhile, President McCain will carry the state by a wide enough margin to sweep the GOP back into power. This midterm was unique in that -- in addition to there being no presidential candidate at the top of the ticket -- neither popular senator was up for re-election and the Democratic governor, who'd been unable to do anything significant with an otherwise Republican dominated state government was, therefore, enormously popular. His newfound capacity to govern will probably be fatal in its own right. Of course, Republicans have to nominate a good gubernatorial candidate next time, something they've not managed in over a decade. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte could be the ticket. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 27, 2006 8:14 AM