November 29, 2010


New Hampshire Turns to 2012 (David Shribman, 11/28/10, RCP)

When the fall campaign began, New Hampshire was the bluest of states, the temptation almost irresistible to describe the political environment as being as blue as the skies in the Presidential Range. When it ended earlier this month, red skies of deep atmospheric change were everywhere.

The two Democratic seats in the U.S. House -- gone. The Democrats' 14-10 advantage in the state Senate -- vanished, the Republicans now holding sway by an astonishing 19 to 5. The Democrats' 222-176 margin in the state House -- obliterated, the new margin being 298 to 102 with the GOP in unambiguous charge.

But there is more. The Executive Committee, a colonial vestige that confirms gubernatorial appointments and every contract over $5,000, had a slim 3-2 Democratic margin when fall began. When it reconvenes in January, the Republicans will hold a 5-0 advantage. The Democratic governor, John Lynch, then will need three Republicans to approve the mere appointment of a justice of the peace.

What this means for the national political picture is clear. The New Hampshire primary, for six decades the first in the country, will be conducted in an atmosphere that has been altered substantially. The Republican candidates' challenge: transferring the energy and passion that transformed the state into a formidable political movement.

Some of this has started. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of neighboring Massachusetts retains a strong presence here and perhaps the strongest political organization. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, unrecognizable in any state beyond Minnesota, has been here several times. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, almost invisible in his own state, came here two days after the election -- his sixth visit thus far, along with seven to Iowa and six to South Carolina -- and soon will be back. Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has made two trips here, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana one. Former Gov. George E. Pataki of New York, not exactly a political cover boy elsewhere, has a significant presence. The rules are different here.

Mitt can't win IA. And no non-Evangelical can do well in the South. Huck can't win NH, but could run well as the race moves South. The question is whether a Northern governor with credibility among the religious can steal a march on both. If a Tim Pawlenty or a Mitch Daniels could win IA they could knock Mitt off here and then cruise.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 29, 2010 5:49 AM
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