Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Hampshire Governor Race

Race of the Day

New Hampshire Governor

August 22, 2012
76 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Tossup (R)

The Granite State may be "First in the Nation" in regards to a Presidential primary, but in terms of nominating candidates for offices down the ballot, they are one of the latter states in the country to vote, with the primary being held this year on September 11th.

New Hampshire is also one of just two states to elect a Governor every two years, and this year, it will be an open contest, as Democrat John Lynch decided eight years was enough, even though he was eligible to seek another term, and would have been considered a heavy favorite to keep his seat.

The only real politically competitive state in New England, New Hampshire will see a slew of action for the remainder of the campaign. While only offering up four electoral votes, the state might be extremely close on the Presidential level and may prove to be the deciding factor itself. New Hampshire is apt to go along with national trends during "wave" elections, and despite holding on to the Governorship in 2010, Republicans won a U.S. Senate race there and picked up both of the state's Congressional seats from Democrat control. This year, Democrats are feeling bullish about potentially getting back both of those U.S. House seats, and with all the attention being played to federal elections, the contest for Governor is way under the political radar nationally, and possibly to an extent in New Hampshire itself.

The primary ballot will contain three candidates for each major party, but only two on each side are considered to be major contenders. Among Democrats, two female former State Senators are facing off for the right to succeed Lynch. They are Jackie Cilley and  Maggie Hassan, who was once the State Senate Majority Leader and seems to be the favorite in the Gubernatorial primary now.

The GOP frontrunner is Ovide Lamontagne an attorney, who was once the Chairman of the State Board of Education. A staunch conservative, he was the party's nominee for Governor back in 1996, but his views were considered too far to the right at that time and he became the first Republican Gubernatorial candidate to lose in many years back then. Since then, the office of Governor has almost continuously be held by Democrats. Lamontagne sought the U.S. Senate nomination in 2010 wand was only very narrowly defeated by someone considered a more electable candidate. He graciously conceded though and loyally supported the party after that defeat, generating much goodwill, which has seemed to put him in good stead for his current primary race. He is opposed by a candidate who might even be trying to run to his right in some extent, in former State Representative Kevin Smith, who more recently was the executive director of a conservative advocacy group.

Primary polling indicates that it is not outside the realm of possibility four any of these four candidates to win their primaries, but Lamontagne looks to be more solidly ahead than Hassan does. Those same polls indicate that any of the four potential general election matchups would be extremely close, with a high number of undecided voters. Both of the primary frontrunner seems to fare a tad bit better in those general election test polls than their primary opponents.

If Lamontagne emerges as the winner, he will have to face a female opponent one way or another, and that is probably not welcomed news to him as he lost to women both in the 1996 Gubernatorial election and the 2010 Senate primary. My sense though is that until there would be solid evidence to suggest otherwise, he has to be at least a very slight favorite to win, as I think he will have a better organization, and the state might be more apt to change parties in an open seat general election away from the Democrats who have held the office for eight years. While he was considered a bit too much of a conservative firebrand the last time he was the nominee for Governor, it appears as though Lamontagne's has matured a bit as a candidate and has a more mainstream appeal this time around, and would not be at the risk of losing moderate Republican voters as he did the last time.

By no means is a victory for Lamontagne, if he is the nominee, a sure thing, and I would not at all be shocked if the Democrats manage to hold on again, but I actually think that so much focus in the state among Democrats on behalf of reelecting Barack Obama and the two female Congressional candidates might sap some of the energy from the eventual Democrat Gubernatorial nominee, and that in a ticket splitting state such as New Hampshire, enough people will vote for the other Democrats running in the high profile races and decide to cast a vote for the GOP candidate for Governor.

There may be a better sense of how this race will shake off once the primaries are completed but the very fact that the GOP might be better organized and energized across the state, going back to being the party that had the competitive open Presidential primary back in January, might mean all the difference. Ovide Lamontagne has been waiting a long time for a second chance at the Governorship, and this time, and his third race overall, might be the charm.

Lamontagne campaign link:

2012 Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 2 D, 3 R
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 14 D, 1 I, 29 R