The Hippo


Dec 15, 2019








Election energy builds
After a placid primary, November will be more interesting


There’s little to analyze about last week’s primary election. But now it should get interesting.

As largely innocuous as the primary race was, the general election should have plenty of intrigue.

Yes, it was fairly surprising that Maggie Hassan beat Jackie Cilley so easily (55 percent to 37 percent) in the Democratic primary for governor. Many pundits and politicos had expected a closer race, but most not in Cilley’s camp have probably expected for some time Hassan would be the victor.

Hassan is clearly trying to toe the same line Gov. John Lynch has toed for four terms: moderate Democrat who is unwilling to allow any type of broad-based tax. Cilley went the other way, suggesting she’d be willing to have a conversation, at least, on taxation in the state. It looked like that move was picking up steam, but in the end, Hassan won out.

On the Republican side, Ovide Lamontagne won easily over Kevin Smith (69 percent to 30 percent) for the nomination, as expected. Smith ran a good campaign by all accounts, but this has seemed like Lamontagne’s year for a long time now.

For the congressional races, it’s on to the rematches, as expected. Incumbents Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta weren’t expected to face difficult challenges in the primary. In the general election, that will presumably be a different story, as Bass faces Ann Kuster in the 2nd District, and Guinta faces Shea-Porter.

Vying for the corner office
As in any presidential election year, much depends on what happens at the top of the ticket.

In 2010, a non-presidential election year, Republicans won across the board, but it was clear lots of people voted for Lynch and then picked Republicans the rest of the way down the ticket.

Hassan is trying to position herself as Lynch has, but she doesn’t have the same history with voters. Even nearing the end of four terms, he has received high approval ratings, and probably would have won again this year had he chosen to run. Positioning herself in the same mold as Lynch is a good move.

Lamontagne, seen as inevitable at least in the primary for a long time, probably has the edge in the general election at the moment, though polling data suggests a tight race is coming. Lamontagne is more of a household name at this point, but both he and Hassan have work to do in the name recognition department. While his political stances are decidedly conservative, he has tried to maintain a sort of non-threatening, almost happy conservative posture. That nearly worked for him in the 2010 Senate primary.

It will also be interesting to see whether Lamontagne embraces GOP leadership in the state House of Representatives, particularly House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon. Hassan will certainly be trying to tie Lamontagne to O’Brien and Republican extremism.

Looking for a seat in Washington
People have known Bass would face off against Kuster essentially from the time Kuster narrowly lost to Bass two years ago. This race will probably be close, no matter what.

In 2010, Kuster was the trendy pick on Election Day. Even with a Republican wave coming, the liberal bent of the district and a strong campaign by Kuster, coupled with tight polling data, suggested Kuster had a strong chance. She had a good showing, but the wave was too big.

No one is expecting another Republican wave — no one is really predicting a Democratic wave, either — and the lack of a strong GOP tide will hurt Bass. The district still leans Democratic, Kuster still has a strong campaign network and the Democratic base is sure to be more energized this time around. That said, Bass is a fairly moderate Republican and is a well-known commodity.

In the 1st District, a rematch is set as well. Carol Shea-Porter wants her seat back. That race is a little tougher to gauge at the moment. Polling suggests it is a relatively close race, and no one seems to be suggesting Guinta is going to run away with it. The district leans Republican, and Shea-Porter is a progressive Democrat. Still, Shea-Porter has historically had an impressive grassroots network. Guinta is not helped by the fact that the CREDO Super PAC has targeted him as a vulnerable incumbent.

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