Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Ayotte Makes It Official

She was expected to jump in, and now she has: Former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R) announced yesterday that she will run for the job being vacated by Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH). As is generally the case with Republicans these days, her first statement as a candidate was to share her view that the world is going to hell in a handbasket: "I'm running for Governor because New Hampshire is one election away from becoming Massachusetts—from becoming something we are not. We will ensure that New Hampshire remains safe, prosperous, and free."

In case you are interested in an evaluation of that comparison, we will note that when it comes to safety, New Hampshire is ranked #2 (behind only Maine), whereas Massachusetts checks in at #7. So, basically a wash. As far as prosperity, Massachusetts is #3 in GDP per capita, while New Hampshire is #18. So, on that dimension, becoming Massachusetts would be a good thing. And in terms of freedom, New Hampshire is ranked #1, while Massachusetts trails far behind at #30. However, the only folks willing to try to quantify something as nebulous as "freedom" are the folks at the ultra-libertarian Cato Institute. With "safe" as a tie, and Massachusetts well ahead on "prosperous," it would appear that Ayotte's platform boils down to keeping New Hampshire more libertarian than Massachusetts is. Well, except on abortion, as the former Senator favors a ban on the procedure, and also played a central role (as state AG of New Hampshire) in trying to compel underage abortion-seekers to get parental permission.

Presumably, by virtue of her name recognition and the fact that she won statewide election once (to the Senate; note that New Hampshire AGs are appointed), and came within 1,000 votes of doing so a second time, Ayotte is now the favorite to succeed Sununu. But probably only a slight favorite. To start, there's already another serious Republican in the race in the form of Chuck Morse, who was a state representative for 4 years, state senator for 20 years, President of the New Hampshire Senate for 7 of those 20 years, and has technically already served as governor (for 2 days, in between the resignation of Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, and the inauguration of Sununu). Morse holds similar positions to Ayotte on key issues; he's a touch more liberal on abortion, and a touch more conservative on the border (the Mexican one; nobody in the Granite State appears to be properly concerned about the other one). Neither of them is whackadoodle, as far as we can tell. And if so, that actually created a lane for a nutter like, say, Don Bolduc. Bolduc was popular enough with New Hampshire Republicans to claim their nomination for the Senate in 2022 (over Morse), and if Ayotte/Morse split the sane Republican vote, and a Bolduc (or other loony) claims the crazypants vote, then the loony could well end up as the GOP nominee.

And even if Ayotte survives the potential roadblocks of the Republican primary, there's the general election. Neither of the Democrats in the race (Mayor Joyce Craig of Manchester and New Hampshire Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington) has Ayotte's name recognition, but that's solvable with a fairly modest amount of money in a small state with only a couple of big media markets. They are also more in line with the majority of New Hampshirites on abortion, which may well be THE issue of 2024, and of course, both of the state's Senate seats are held by Democrats, while it's gone for the Democratic presidential candidate five times in a row. Sununu's personal popularity may well be masking the possibility that New Hampshire has become bluer than it seems. We'll learn next year, won't we? (Z)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates