October 2, 2016


Turmoil in New Hampshire (David Shribman, October 02, 2016, RCP)

[T]he turmoil here, in a state Republicans carried in every election between 1948 and 1988, with the exception of the Lyndon Johnson landslide, is especially critical. New Hampshire is one of a handful of battleground states where Mr. Trump, Hillary Clinton and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, all of whom visited here last week, are battling in an increasingly close contest.

All of that turmoil, moreover, is being conducted in an environment where the state's Republicans, who occupied the governor's chair for all but 15 of the 138 years between from 1859 to 1997, are fighting to retain a critical Senate seat and to regain a governor's office that once seemed almost to be their birthright.

The result is a very awkward moment for New Hampshire Republicans. The two leading statewide Republican candidates -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is seeking a second term, and gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu, the son of a former governor, the brother of a former senator and a member of the state's Executive Council -- represent a return to a Granite State Republicanism personified by former Sens. Judd Gregg and the late Warren B. Rudman: ideological, to be sure, but not doctrinaire.

Mr. Trump won the vital primary here in February by a decisive margin but now lags in the polls. Ms. Clinton and her husband have won two New Hampshire primaries (but not this year's), with Bill Clinton breaking the GOP's traditional hold on the state in general elections by winning it both times he ran. Barack Obama also won the state in both of his general-election campaigns, but had third-party candidate Ralph Nader not run in 2000, Vice President Albert Gore Jr. would have taken the state and the election -- and the Florida recount spectacle would have been avoided. [...]

Party insiders say Ms. Ayotte's support in the state exceeds that of Mr. Trump and likely will stay that way; she provides a safe harbor for Republicans who want to show their party loyalty by voting for her even as they vote for Ms. Clinton, the Libertarians' Mr. Johnson or no one at all for president. "The idea of voting against her because of the Trump factor doesn't hold," said former state attorney general Thomas D. Rath, "People here realize they can split their vote."

Ms. Ayotte and her rival are playing a game of political guilt-by-association. Ms. Hassan has tried to tie Ms. Ayotte to Mr. Trump. Ms. Ayotte has returned the volley by questioning why the governor continues to support a presidential nominee who was soundly defeated by Sen. Bernie Sanders of neighboring Vermont in the state's primary. Meanwhile, the Union Leader, the statewide newspaper and a generations-long sentinel of Granite State conservatism, has endorsed Mr. Johnson, the former GOP governor of New Mexico.

"Now I can sleep at night," Joseph W. McQuaid, publisher of the newspaper, said in an interview.

Last winter, Mr. McQuaid wrote that Mr. Trump's campaign was "an insult to the intelligence of Republican voters." The other day he said he didn't know whom his endorsement helps. "Those two," he said, "are the worst candidates the parties have put up in a long time."

Unfortunately, recent election history has seen the party that wins at the top of the ticket sweep every electoral body race in the state : Governor, Congress, legislature, Executive Council.  If Ms Ayotte can buck the trend, and against a popular governor, she probably becomes the GOP's leading female voice, which would be good news for the party.

Posted by at October 2, 2016 9:08 AM