Monday, August 29, 2016

Race of the Day- New Hampshire U.S. Senate

70 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Tossup (R)

Much is on the line this year in New Hampshire, including what could possibly be the deciding race for Senate control. The GOP incumbent is highly touted and thought of as a rising star in the party, but she will face a tough opponent and possibly difficult circumstances. New Hampshire is known for swinging strongly towards one party or another, depending on the nature of the election cycle. An exception might have been in 2014, when Republicans won every competitive Senate race in the country, except the one in New Hampshire against a Democrat incumbent.

For a couple of years leading into 2014, New Hampshire had a female Governor, two women U.S. Senators, and two women representing the state in the U.S. House. One of those Congresswomen went down to defeat that year, but this year, the Granite State will feature a major showdown between a popular female sitting Governor and a fairly popular freshman U.S. Senator. Incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, a fairly young and politically attractive first time holder of elected office, who became a top ally of veteran Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, especially on foreign policy matters, was seen as having a modest edge for reelection in 2016. Then, Democrat Governor Maggie Hassan, who was expected to cruise to reelection this year, switched gears and announced a challenge to Ayotte. That suddenly made the race a lot more competitive, and Ayotte could not be forgiven if she maybe had thoughts of following Hassan's lead and running instead for Governor.

Before this matchup becomes truly official though, the primary will be held on September 13. Other races, in both parties, will be closer that day, but it will be interesting to see what kind of margin Ayotte is able to wrack up against Jim Rubens, a former State Senator and unsuccessful candidate for Governor and U.S. Senate. He is trying to run to Ayotte's right and is claiming the incumbent is insufficiently conservative.

A few weeks back, Ayotte found herself in national headlines, when she was among the incumbent Congressional figures, whom had yet to survive their state's primaries, whom Donald Trump signaled out as not being willing to endorse. While most of the controversy about this regarded Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator McCain, Trump stated that Ayotte had not offered him any support and the winner of New Hampshire's Presidential primary stated he was far more popular in New Hampshire than she was. After a firestorm, Trump eventually made a begrudging statement endorsing all three, including Ayotte, but she had the opportunity to say that she would always put New Hampshire first and being criticized by Trump might have benefited her. Of course, the underlying issue is a mess for all Republicans and may adversely effect Ayotte more than most. She is among the GOP Senators up for reelection who have felt they have no choice but to say they will vote for Trump, but she has also tried to keep her distance by awkwardly saying she is not endorsing him and will stand up to him. If Ayotte is to eventually lose, the damage that Trump will do by association to other Republicans will almost certainly be the deciding factor.

Things are not exactly peachy on the other side either between Hassan and her party's nominee, Hillary Clinton. New Hampshire is after all a state where Democrat voters went overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders. Long before that though, Hassan had endorsed Clinton. Late last year, the Governor and by then Senate candidate, split with virtually all major figures in her party by calling for a complete halt on Syrian refugees being admitted to the U.S. This month, Hassan struggled mightily when asked if Clinton was honest and trustworthy. She dodged the question and then days later, after her answer received a lot of notice, she admitted she did not answer the question very well and tried to confirm her belief in Secretary Clinton's character, but still tried to cloak it mostly in policy terms.

There is an interesting dichotomy in this race of two fairly well-liked politicians running against each other and both being burdened by far less popular Presidential standard bearers. All signs point though to Clinton beating Trump in New Hampshire. If everything else truly becomes a mandate on the Presidential race, Hassan is probably going to unseat Ayotte. I think though that Ayotte, who captured an open seat with ease in 2010, might be able to get enough crossover votes to survive, but that will involve her being able to play it smart, perhaps smarter than she has thus far, regarding Trump.

Polls this summer have shown everything from a dead heat to a nine point Ayotte lead to a 10 point Hassan lead. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, indicating a very close race. Normally, incumbency helps, but both candidates are sort of incumbents. There have been other races where Governors have taken on Senators, for the Senate, and the incumbent Senators usually win. It would seem fairly unusual as well if once rock-ribbed Republican New Hampshire elected two liberal Democrat Senators.

This is a true tossup, but if new polls indicate that Hassan has moved out to a clear lead, this seat becomes far more likely to tip. For now, I will assume that race will remain very close and that some Republican holdouts will fall in line behind Ayotte in the homestretch and that she might be able to hang on, in spite of the Trump albatross.

Ayotte campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far:
6 D (4 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans)
15 R (4 Safe, 5 Likely, 3 Leans, 3 Tossup)

 Overall predicted thus far: 42 D, 45 R


Post a Comment

<< Home