Most politicos seem to agree the marquee race this year in New Hampshire is the one for the 2nd Congressional District.
That’s saying something, considering there is an open race for governor and a rematch in the 1st Congressional District between Rep. Frank Guinta and former representative Carol Shea-Porter. Despite being the incumbent, Rep. Charlie Bass faces an uphill climb. He barely held off Ann Kuster two years ago. Bass is serving in a decidedly more liberal district than the 1st District, where Guinta enjoys a Republican lean.
Political analysts and operatives marveled at Kuster’s campaign two years ago. The orchestrator of that campaign, Colin Van Ostern, can’t exactly orchestrate this time around, since he’s running, himself, for a seat on the state’s Executive Council.
It seems, so far, that the race is living up to expectations. Analysts say Bass is working as hard as he ever has. Along with the 2nd District being more liberal, Bass is also seeking re-election in a presidential election year when turnout by Democrats is sure to be greater than it was in 2010, when Republicans enjoyed an energized base and a somewhat dazed Democratic opposition.
Kuster is winning the fundraising battle so far, having raised more than $1.8 million, according to the Federal Election Commission. Bass has raised nearly $1.3 million. Kuster has $1.2 million in cash on hand, while Bass has about $930,000.
Bass unveiled a list of 400 supporters from throughout the district a couple weeks ago, a number of whom are rather high-profile. Bass has also tried to re-emphasize his bipartisan attributes. While the 2010 election was about fiscal restraint and electing conservatives’ conservatives, Bass was really a more moderate candidate. He did face serious primary challenges from Jennifer Horn and Bob Giuda, after all.
To win this race, in a presidential election year when the incumbent Democratic president is doing reasonably well in New Hampshire, would probably be the marquee political achievement of Bass’s career — from a campaign standpoint. It’s not impossible, certainly. He’s a well-known commodity, having been the district’s congressman for several terms, before Paul Hodes defeated him in 2006. And he has, historically, been decidedly moderate. That serves him well in this race. Democrats have tried, but it’s not easy to paint Bass as a tea party Republican.
Kuster is perhaps the biggest political obstacle Bass has faced. Not to take anything away from Paul Hodes, but he beat Bass at a time when every Republican was simply being tied to President George Bush. It was relatively easy to make a connection — a negative one--between pretty much all Republicans and the former president. But Kuster nearly took Bass down in a year when nearly all Republicans were winning.
And Kuster is a progressive Democrat. That’s worth noting as well. Gov. John Lynch, who is the most moderate of Democrats, was the only Democrat left standing following the 2010 election. Kuster nearly joined him.
Obama’s support in the 2nd District will go a long way toward determining the outcome of that race.
Cilley nets big endorsement
While Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan netted a huge endorsement in the form of former President Bill Clinton two weeks ago, it was her opponent, Jackie Cilley, who grabbed the endorsement headlines last week.
Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm, announced his support for Cilley’s campaign for governor. Hirshberg is seen as one of the most, if not the most, high-profile progressives in the state. Many had expected or hoped he would run for governor himself. After resigning as CEO of Stonyfield Yogurt, many guessed that would be his next move.
“When Governor Lynch announced he wouldn’t seek another term, I seriously considered running myself,” said Hirshberg in a statement. “I have watched this race unfold and I know who our next governor should be: Jackie Cilley. She has the strength, the independence and the vision to lead our state forward in these challenging times.”
Hirshberg represents one of the biggest Democratic endorsements in the state.
Consumer confidence stuck in neutral
In what is not exactly great news for the president, a recent Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center discovered that consumer confidence in New Hampshire has largely remained unchanged. Many analysts tie the president’s electoral fate to the economy.
About half of Granite State residents think local businesses will experience good times financially during the next year, while the other half are split between thinking businesses will experience bad times and thinking businesses will experience a mixed bag. According a press release from the Survey Center, the economic views are consistent with the views prior to the 2008 recession.
“The good news is that almost half of Granite Staters think business will improve in the next 12 months and we hope that number will continue to grow,” said New Hampshire Business and Industry Association President Jim Roche, in a statement. “It’s likely that Granite Staters are adopting a wait-and-see approach because of the impending fall elections and unfolding economic conditions in Europe.”
Political analysts have figured that if the economy has a significant uptick, that suggests a victory for the president, while a downward tick could spell the opposite. It’s the in-between slog that is currently happening, and has been happening for some time, that could make for a less decisive victory either way, they say.