New Hampshire is, in a partisan sense, one of those 50-50 states. It swings, sometimes madly, between Democrats and Republicans. Bill Clinton started a presidential winning streak in 1992– interrupted for one election, in 2000, in favor of George W. Bush who beat Gore by a mere 7,211 votes (which gave America Bush-Cheney). Right now the state has a Democratic governor and a state legislature controlled by the GOP. There are 238 Republicans and 160 Democrats in the state House and 14 Republicans and 10 Dems in the state Senate. There's one U.S. senator from each party and one member of the House from each party. Very swingy state.
The Real Clear Politics polling average gives Clinton a comfortable 5.7 point lead. And the most recent poll (by WBUR, after 80% of respondents reported having watched the debate, has Hillary leading Trump by an even wider margin– 47-38% in a head-to-head, 42-35% with third party candidates included. There is also a Senate race between GOP incumbent Kelly Ayotte and current Governor Maggie Hassan and it's too close to call. The two House races both look reasonably close as well, although incumbent conservative Democrat Anne Kuster leads state Rep. Jack Flanagan 38-32% and progressive Democratic challenger Carol Shea-Porter tops incumbent far right Tea Party loon Frank Guinta 43-37%.
Blue America has looked at all the candidates running and the only one we're enthusiastic about is Carol Shea-Porter, who we've endorsed. (You can contribute to her campaign here.)
The Trump campaign has lately come to see New Hampshire as an absolute must-win state if they're going to prevail in November. If Democrats don't vote, Trump could win. Otherwise, that's unlikely. In the primary, Bernie swept the state, winning 60.4% of the vote (151,584) to Hillary's 38% (95,252). More Republicans voted in the primaries than Democrats but Trump's win wasn't all that convincing– only 35.3% of the vote, with double-digit results for Kasich, Cruz, Jeb and Rubio.New Hampshire was Christie's graveyard). Yesterday, David Shriblman wrote that Trump's efforts in the state are being hampered by a Republican Party in turmoil.
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.
The Trump candidacy has warped the calculus of New Hampshire politics this fall.
Ms. Ayotte, who has made a solid reputation on Capitol Hill for her work on national security, is facing a strong challenge from the Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan. Ms. Ayotte and Mr. Trump are not soul-siblings; in a summertime Washington Post interview, the real-estate-and-casino tycoon singled her out, saying, “We don’t need weak people. We have enough of them. We need fighters in this country. But Kelly Ayotte has given me zero support and I’m doing great in New Hampshire.”
Since then, in a contorted political move that might win her advantage in a game of Twister but has only confused things here, the senator said she will vote for Mr. Trump but that she has not endorsed him. The state’s lone Republican House member, Rep. Frank Guinta, is fully behind Mr. Trump and, despite federal charges he accepted illegal contributions– and a New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper editorial describing him as a “damned liar”– Mr. Guinta prevailed in last month’s primary, largely on the strength of Trump supporters.
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.”
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis