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Who will win the middle?
Hassan and Lamontagne in a dead heat

10/04/12



As much as Maggie Hassan is trying to fit the centrist, fiscally responsible Democratic mold, Ovide Lamontagne is trying to paint her as a tax-and-spend liberal. Conversely, as much as Lamontagne is pushing his fiscal agenda, Hassan is attempting to brand him as an extremist, Tea Party conservative in the mold of House Speaker William O’Brien. 
 
Lamontagne’s campaign has introduced a series of “Taxes of the Day,” in attempts to tie Hassan’s legislative record as a state senator to higher taxes and more government spending. The campaign recently tied Hassan to the controversial LLC tax that was introduced a couple years ago and then promptly eliminated — Hassan voted for the tax. 
 
Hassan has repeatedly suggested Lamontagne would simply be an extension of a Tea Party legislature. Recently, her campaign has argued Lamontagne would say no to federal education funding while “dismantling” Medicare. Lamontagne has made an issue of the federal health care reform act and has offered his own plan for dealing with rising health care costs. He criticizes Hassan for what he says are policies she supported that have led to higher costs. 
 
Despite the back and forth branding efforts, this race has a decidedly different tone than 2010. In 2010, voters were angry and candidates were angry. Both Hassan and Lamontagne, whether through campaign strategy, personality or both, are remaining civil in their disagreements — and they have plenty they disagree about. 
At the same time, both candidates are sprinting to the center hoping to pick up as many independent voters as possible. Lamontagne said during the debate he’d check his party label at the door if elected. Hassan is positioning herself in the same political light as Gov. John Lynch, who has been decidedly moderate since taking office four terms ago. In 2010, Republican candidates seemingly sprinted as far right as possible. Two years later, the middle ground is once again everybody’s friend. 
 
The race is a statistical dead heat, according to recent polling data. The most recent Rasmussen Reports poll from Tuesday, Sept/. 18, has Lamontagne leading 48-44. An ARG poll from the same day has Lamontagne ahead 47-45, with Hassan within the margin of error. A recent Public Policy poll had Hassan with a seven-point advantage, though it is considerede a liberal polling operation. 
 
Lamontagne certainly has the advantage in the name recognition department, although they both have work to do in that area. It will be interesting to see what happens to Hassan’s support as more people become familiar with her. 
 
Pundits are paying close attention to how Republican candidates run in relation to the GOP leadership in the state House of Representatives. Democrats have, at least somewhat successfully, tried to make extremism and House leadership go hand-in-hand. Lamontagne certainly stands on conservative principles, but he has also tried to come across as reasonable, and for lack of a better word, likeable. 
 
For Hassan it might not be as much about making Lamontagne seem like the second coming of O’Brien, though that wouldn’t hurt her chances; it seems to be more about her positioning herself as a check against that legislature. Even if people don’t buy Lamontagne as O’Brien’s clone, he could have difficulty convincing voters he’d be a check against the legislature.
 
Each candidate’s fate could be heavily tied to the presidential outcome in New Hampshire, which is very much in play. We’ll pay attention to how polling data shifts relative to presidential polling data in New Hampshire. 
 
Kuster grabs camera
Annie Kuster, who is running for the state’s 2nd District congressional seat against Rep. Charlie Bass, grabbed the camera of a Bass campaign staffer after he followed her and repeatedly called her name. 
 
Kuster claimed the staffer was harassing her, and she said, on a video published at www.nhjournal.com, that she’d call Bass to see about returning the camera. Reports indicated one of Kuster’s staff members gave the camera back just after the incident. 
 
It’s difficult to know whether the incident impacts Kuster at all. She might come off as sympathetic, since she is walking away talking to someone while the cameraman follows her doggedly. On the other hand, a voice that seems to be Kuster’s is also heard uttering “F-him,” though she does not actually say the word. 
At the very least, it would seem to inject some life into an up-for-grabs race. 





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