DSCC - Nashua Telegraph: John H Sununu "Relishing" GOP Primary

She is likely to get the endorsement and the financial support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and is polling far ahead of her two primary opponents – Manchester businessman Ovide Lamontagne and magazine publisher Sean Mahoney.

Sununu is not jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, he’s downright combative. “I hope the NRSC understands that New Hampshire doesn’t really respond well to having candidates designated from outside the state,’’ he said, in anticipation of a national GOP endorsement.

Nashua Telegraph Editorial: Primary fights have been good for GOP

October 14, 2009

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091014/OPINION01/910149974/-1/opinion

Most political observers knew that former New Hampshire governor John H. Sununu would bring his unique style to the role of Republican Party chairman for the state. Having been in and out of political office since the early 1980s, he also brings a sense of history to the job.

That may be why the state GOP has held off on endorsing former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, who remains in a primary fight for the opportunity to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Judd Gregg.

With Gregg out of the running, the race is wide open, with polls showing Ayotte posing a serious challenge. She has raised more than $600,000 since July, matching what Hodes raised in the same quarter.

She is likely to get the endorsement and the financial support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and is polling far ahead of her two primary opponents – Manchester businessman Ovide Lamontagne and magazine publisher Sean Mahoney.

Sununu is not jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, he’s downright combative. “I hope the NRSC understands that New Hampshire doesn’t really respond well to having candidates designated from outside the state,’’ he said, in anticipation of a national GOP endorsement.

The former governor and once chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush probably knows better than most that the New Hampshire GOP thrives on a good primary contest.

In 1980, 11 Republicans sought the U.S. Senate nomination for the right to face one-term Senate Democrat John Durkin. That may have been the time when John H. Sununu first saw the power of competition within his party.

He was one of those candidates, finishing a very respectable second to Warren Rudman. He chaired Rudman’s fall campaign against Durkin, who was beaten decisively despite the re-election of incumbent Democratic Gov. Hugh Gallen.

In 1994, 10 Republicans sought the Second District nomination to face two-term incumbent Democrat Dick Swett. State Sen. Charlie Bass of Peterborough emerged from the primary to beat Swett in the general election after surviving primary attacks from his more conservative opponents.

In 2002, most partisan Democrats assumed that Congressman John E. Sununu’s bold decision to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Smith would split the party and assure victory for Gov. Jeanne Shaheen in her first senate race. Sununu won the primary over Smith and then beat Shaheen in the general election by 5 percentage points.

In all three examples, while there was some intramural sniping, the candidates spent most of their time bashing the Democratic incumbent. In every case the Democrat had no primary opponent, so was not getting as much free media. All the focus was on the GOP primary fight.

None of this has been lost on a political operative as astute as John H. Sununu. In fact, he is relishing the primary season.

“Six months ago, I thought we were going to have difficulty getting candidates. Now I’m going to have to referee deep primaries in almost every, if not every, major race in the state,” Sununu said. “I’m just going to make sure it’s a positive Republican primary with all the candidates focused on the shortcomings of the Democrats.”

If past performance is any indication of future success, he’s on the right path.