New Hampshire's turn for an Independent?

Looking to both the East and West of the Granite State, there have been a series of successful state-wide Independent candidates. As far back as 1975, Mainers elected their first Independent Governor, James B. Longley. Longley, a center-left Democrat on social issues, left the Democratic Party over fiscal issues. Running as a fiscally-conservative and socially progressive Independent, he struck a chord with more Mainers than either the Republicans or Democrats, and left as his mark a reorganization of the University system. From 1995 to 2003, Mainers again elected an Independent, Angus King, with an eclectic philosophical record but who was perceived as very strong on educational issues, a recurrent issue in Maine politics.

To the West, Vermont sent Jim Jeffords to the U. S. Senate as a Republican three times. But in 2001, Jeffords switched to Independent, and the catalyst was Republican opposition to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Jeffords would strongly represent a civil libertarian position, opposing the ban on gays in the military and the FCC Decency Act (which would eventually be struck down by the Supreme Court), and opposing background checks at gun shows, the flag desecration amendment, and the use of military force in Iraq. On Economic issues, he supported the Balanced Budget Amendment and Free Trade agreements.

To the south of New Hampshire, Independent candidates are polling ahead of Democrats and Republicans in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Ex-Democrat Tim Cahill is running strongly in Massachusetts, with - surprise, surprise - a socially moderate and fiscally conservative approach. In Rhode Island, ex-Senator Lincoln Chaffee, who was targeted by the conservative wing of the GOP, is positioned as a pragmatic independent who is not as 'mean' as the shrill Republican base, but more fiscally responsible than the chaotic Democratic-lead statehouse. And of course in Connecticut, Independent Joe Lieberman felt ostracized by liberal Democrats, and has almost single-handedly prevented a new socialized health program from leaving the Senate.

One must ask: what traits do all of these Independent victories have in common?

First, Fiscal irresponsibility among Democrats.
Second, capture of the Republican Party by an extreme and shrill right wing.
Third, voter rejection of both (1) and (2) above, and falling party identification.
Fourth, Independent candidates who support fiscal responsibility; social tolerance and civil liberties; and who have strong pro-Education platforms.

Which brings us to New Hampshire, and the 2010 Gubernatorial election.

Governor John Lynch's record of fee & tax increases, free-wheeling spending, and fiscal incompetence will go down in history as legendary. Not in recent history has this state seen such deceitful budgeting, nor so many tax and fee increases. Combined with the national Obama juggernaut of staggering deficits and spending, a growing number of Americans from "the middle" - where elections are won - are pushing back against the Democrats irresponsibility.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party will not necessarily benefit from this anger. The Bush years convinced an entire generation of Americans that Republicans, too, stand for big government and big spending. Worse, the histrionics of right-wing media idols like Glenn Beck have painted the GOP as a party of the lunatic fringe.

NH GOP contender Karen Testerman represents the fringe that the public rejects: a co-founder of the Christianist "Cornerstone Policy Research," in 2003 she compared gays and lesbians to "shoplifters and drug addicts," and told the Nashua Telegraph that she would have to "prayerfully assess" her role in the Republican primary. In the second least 'evangelical' state in the union (Vermont being first), Testerman represents everything that most independents and moderates - and many former Republican voters - fear most: a religious fringe candidate who will see the Office of Education and the Office of Health and Human Services as a personal crusade to impose theological opinion.

With the Democrats in disarray over the financial meltdown for which they and they alone are responsible, and the Republicans insisting on pandering to a shrill far-right base, New Hampshire and its swelling ranks of Independent voters may well be poised to elect an Independent who represents fiscal sanity, social tolerance, and a strong commitment to both Jobs and Education.

Now...who's stepping up to the plate?