New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte has her work cut out for her. She’s trailing Democrat challenger Maggie Hassan by 1 to 10 points, depending on the poll. This is a race to watch as a bellwether for the GOP.
Donald Trump carried New Hampshire in the GOP primary by a large margin. I was there in early February in the cold and snow. A blizzard hit the night before the election. While the roads were mostly clear on election day, it was bitter cold and icy. Long lines marked some of the precincts, with people lining up for hours to vote for Trump.
I helped Decision Desk with their exit polling, covering the Seabrook precinct. A former ‘Brooker, I saw quite a few people I knew (“where have you been the last twenty years?”–“Georgia”). Several Democrats were upset that they couldn’t change their registration on the spot to vote for Trump. The man had a magnetic pull.
New Hampshire has become largely a liberal, Democrat state. It has always been a populist, iconoclastic, frugal, New England yankee hive of curmudgeons at heart. With the largest state legislature, 434 people representing 1.3 million, getting agreement on anything in the Granite State is an exercise in futility. In that environment, Ayotte has been a popular figure.
In 2010, she won moderate Republican Judd Gregg’s seat, crushing Democrat Paul Hodes 60 percent to 36. Ayotte’s biggest challenge was fending off Republican challenger Ovide Lamontagne in the primary, which she won by just 1,659 votes (1.2 percent).
Now trapped between Trump’s populism and Clinton’s liberal social agenda, Ayotte has no maneuvering room. And this is the tale of the GOP downballot.
Trump has flipped the race on the GOP–going after working-class rust-belt states and leaving normally red states to fend for themselves. The negative campaign is based on fear of Clinton, and Trump is counting on Republicans to veer at the last moment. He wants to win the battlegrounds where he’s currently deeply trailing.
The GOP would do well to abandon Trump and focus on the downballot at this point. Trump is either going to win or lose by his own hand–the party is no help to him and he is certainly no help to the party right now.
Watch New Hampshire. If the GOP stays with Trump, and if Ayotte loses–a real possibility at this point–and Trump is crushed in November, we may be looking at the total collapse of the Republican Party at the national level. State governorships and legislatures will not be far behind.
The Party of Lincoln is looking into its own grave.