DSCC - Nashua Telegraph: NH Conservatives Backlash Against Ayotte

Ayotte will learn fast that she'll have to fight hard to win over the conservative wing of her party in New Hampshire - and nationally - and still could fail.

Here were a few early reviews, first from Doug Lambert in the Laconia Daily Sun about her cavorting with stimulus-backer Collins in D.C.

"This could spell trouble in lost enthusiasm for a base seeing little difference between a squishy moderate in the mold of a Susan Collins versus a Paul Hodes,'' Lambert wrote.

"I know I would rather vote for nobody, given that option. Why endure the heartache and heartburn of entrenching such a Republican empowered with incumbency status forever? Is it not better to work on the up-and-coming prospects for the next opportunity.''

Then there's national blogger Dan Riehl, who's making hay over Ayotte joining Lynch to urge communities and nonprofit organizations to apply for stimulus money last spring.

"In any event, this is just another unfortunate sign that the Republican establishment is not getting the message. Nor are they going to be able to fool people anymore if they try to claim the banner of fiscal restraint and limited government if those principles are not guiding their actions behind the scenes,'' Riehl wrote.

"People are done being fooled by just another D.C. political party that is more a part of the problem than a potential cure.''

Here's what the Washington Times blog concluded Friday, referring to how national GOP leaders are also rallying behind Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, as they appear to be behind Ayotte.

"The same scenario is playing out again, this time in New Hampshire. When New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, another high-polling Republican, announced she was resigning from her post to begin exploring a bid for the U.S. Senate, the National Republican Senatorial Committee immediately issued a statement calling her a 'formidable candidate for the U.S. Senate if she decides to run' - a strong indication they would be likely to support her once her candidacy is declared,'' The Washington Times blog entry said.

"They also e-mailed conservative bloggers items promoting flattering things political reporters had written about her.

"But, like Mr. Crist, she doesn't appear to be much of a fiscal conservative, either.''









Nashua Telegraph: Candidates must choose their words carefully

Kevin Landrigan 7/12/09

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Did she or didn't she?

Even Kelly Ayotte's hairdresser doesn't know for sure.

It's a little early for silly season, but media outlets, Democratic partisans and other Republicans with a lustful eye on that Senate seat can't resist trying to snag Ayotte about what promise she did or didn't make to Gov. John Lynch before he reappointed her last April.

Here's what is known:

Right after Lynch's announcement, this reporter spoke with Ayotte and put the commitment question to her. By that time, senior U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg had already said he's not running again, accepted, and then turned down, the commerce position.

Ayotte said she loved the AG job and there was nothing else she could imagine doing for the next four years. But, she pointed out, the latest political upheaval revealed that no one can know what opportunities are in anyone's future.

Then, look at what happened in the past week before Ayotte's abrupt letter of resignation. Former Sen. John E. Sununu takes a pass on a Senate bid in 2010; there's no way Ayotte gets into a primary with him.

Former Gov. Steve Merrill, arguably the most popular state chief executive of his time, gives the same response and demurs a run for the Senate.

That changes everything, even as Ayotte was getting solid encouragement to take the leap during a Washington fact-finding trip, where she met with National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman John Cronyn, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and, of course, Gregg.

Lynch himself seemed a bit uncomfortable with all the speculation about what was or wasn't said at the time he infuriated liberal Democrats by giving another term to the Republican Ayotte.If Lynch secured the "I will serve out'' pledge from Ayotte, what faith could he put into it? He's the same guy who then-Republican Gov. Craig Benson renamed as chairman of the University System Board of Trustees in mid-2003.

Nearly a year later, when Lynch leapt into the race for governor, an irate Benson declared in getting his plum appointment, Lynch had vowed that he wouldn't run against Benson in 2004.

What of the private meeting nearly three weeks ago, when Ayotte filled in Lynch about what spade work she had done about a Senate campaign? Reliable sources have told The Sunday Telegraph at that juncture, Lynch told Ayotte to do what's best for her political future and forget about what was or wasn't committed to 75 days earlier.

All of this is an early lesson for Ayotte that on the cusp of becoming a candidate, nuances matter and being precise about what was or wasn't said, even in a private conversation, has big-time consequences.

We leave this subject with the always-candid observations of ex-Democratic nominee for governor and media talk show host Arnie Arnesen.

Arnesen comes down squarely on the side of the Republican Ayotte in this little dust-up.

"This is like asking, 'Are you going to be pregnant?' '' Arnesen said. "People ask me all the time, 'Are you going to run again?' and I say 'I'm too young to say never and too smart to say yes.' "

"It's ludicrous to try and enforce any kind of commitment, even if there ever was one made. That's wrong and unfair to anyone's personal freedom.''

Ayotte's (possible) competition

Wow, it will be a while before another Powerball play is made after flubbing my odds last week that Ayotte would get into this race.

The Sunday Telegraph listed the pros and cons of running for Ayotte, and then put odds that she would not run.

This came after Ayotte's meeting, when those close to Lynch also thought she'd say out, mainly due to the overwhelming fundraising task required of any first-time candidate for what could become a $10 million race.

Even some GOP insiders who had spoken to Ayotte a few weeks back thought she would step aside.

What changed? There are clear signs the national senatorial GOP group sent signals that raising money would not be an insurmountable task if she got into this fight. The national GOP's top priority in 2010 is to get out from under the 60-vote Democratic majority it faces in the Senate, and that has to start with holding New Hampshire in the red column.

More to the point, this was an act somewhat out of character for the sure-footed, cautious Ayotte. She leaves a secure, high-paying, positive publicity machine to take a flyer that is by no means a given, either in the primary or in November 2010.

Look for Merrimack investor Fred Tausch to continue his expensive, anti-stimulus and pro-personal propaganda machine, and a Senate race appears in his future.

Manchester lawyer Ovide Lamontange has never been the darling of any party's establishment and will make his own independent judgment.

Some believe Ayotte's quick move increases the likelihood that former Congressman Charles Bass ultimately steps to the right and goes back after the Second District seat he lost in 2006.

But that's what raises the ante for Ayotte as Republican potentials keep their powder dry, watching how she handles the first few months of her all-but-inevitable Senate bid.

Merrimack GOP activist Bill Boyd started a Friends of Ayotte page on Facebook this week.

The fight ahead



Ayotte will learn fast that she'll have to fight hard to win over the conservative wing of her party in New Hampshire - and nationally - and still could fail.

Here were a few early reviews, first from Doug Lambert in the Laconia Daily Sun about her cavorting with stimulus-backer Collins in D.C.

"This could spell trouble in lost enthusiasm for a base seeing little difference between a squishy moderate in the mold of a Susan Collins versus a Paul Hodes,'' Lambert wrote.

"I know I would rather vote for nobody, given that option. Why endure the heartache and heartburn of entrenching such a Republican empowered with incumbency status forever? Is it not better to work on the up-and-coming prospects for the next opportunity.''

Then there's national blogger Dan Riehl, who's making hay over Ayotte joining Lynch to urge communities and nonprofit organizations to apply for stimulus money last spring.

"In any event, this is just another unfortunate sign that the Republican establishment is not getting the message. Nor are they going to be able to fool people anymore if they try to claim the banner of fiscal restraint and limited government if those principles are not guiding their actions behind the scenes,'' Riehl wrote.

"People are done being fooled by just another D.C. political party that is more a part of the problem than a potential cure.''

Here's what the Washington Times blog concluded Friday, referring to how national GOP leaders are also rallying behind Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, as they appear to be behind Ayotte.

"The same scenario is playing out again, this time in New Hampshire. When New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, another high-polling Republican, announced she was resigning from her post to begin exploring a bid for the U.S. Senate, the National Republican Senatorial Committee immediately issued a statement calling her a 'formidable candidate for the U.S. Senate if she decides to run' - a strong indication they would be likely to support her once her candidacy is declared,'' The Washington Times blog entry said.

"They also e-mailed conservative bloggers items promoting flattering things political reporters had written about her.

"But, like Mr. Crist, she doesn't appear to be much of a fiscal conservative, either.''

Democrats react



The state Democratic leaders have been hammering Ayotte over the Lynch involvement but getting some blowback this week.

The Telegraph, Foster's Daily Democrat and Union-Leader have all editorialized that the attack on Ayotte is a bit over the top. The UL claimed it was personal and pointed out that it was the AG who gave a clean bill of ethical health to then-Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, who had faced some scurrilous allegations.

True to form, Buckley hit back on the paper's Web site Friday.

"It is absurd to even try to compare the full year later decision of John Lynch to resign from the volunteer post as a UNH trustee to the 16 weeks later decision of Ayotte to abandon her position as the full-time paid NH Attorney General with a desk full of important cases pending. It's not even in the same ballpark,'' Buckley wrote.

"But I get it, you need to create phony indignations to create cover for Ayotte's going back on her word, and please understand that I am talking about her professional word, not her personal word, not that you truly care.''

Ouch!

Workin' on the railroad



Transportation Commissioner George Campbell ducked a major bullet this week in sending to the Executive Council on Wednesday the 10-year renewal lease for the operation of the Milford-Bennington Railroad, a freight line owned by Rep. Peter Leishman, D-Peterborough.

For the past 20 years, Leishman has run the 24-mile, former Boston and Maine track stretch that has rights from Pan-Am Railway since 1987.

It operates daily trains from a Bennington quarry to bring construction material to Granite State Concrete in Milford.

Campbell said Leishman did not properly seek an extension of the lease and when he did submit paperwork, it failed "procedural requirements.''

He insisted that with this and other rail stretches, the only concern is what is best for the freight customers.

"I didn't have any concerns other than that. As long as the customers are being served, that's our responsibility and obligation,'' Campbell said.

He admitted entertaining the idea of letting Pan-Am bid after that rail outfit expressed an interest in getting the service. This was a real burr in Leishman's saddle, since he and Pan-Am have been in court many times over the years as Pan-Am at times has threatened to refuse to honor the right of Leishman's train to pass over.

For the record, Campbell's vast experience includes a stint as a senior assistance vice president for Guilford Transportation, which had these lines before Pan-Am took them over.

"Ultimately, I decided if it's not broke, why try and fix it,'' Campbell said of letting Pan-Am enter the competition.

Lawmakers from both parties rallied to Leishman's behalf including House Finance Committee Chairman Marjorie Smith, D-Durham; former House Speaker and ex-DOT Administration Director Doug Scamman; Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua; and House Public Works and Highways Chairman Candace Bouchard, D-Concord.

"It's all been worked out and I'm glad to hear that,'' Scamman said. "Let's not talk about what would have happened if it didn't."

Scamman got so concerned about this, he met with Lynch privately, and the governor assured him that within 24 hours any kinks in the lease would be ironed out, and they were.

Medical marijuana



The campaign to legalize medical marijuana was the victim of bad timing.

If the proposal ever had a chance of getting Gov. Lynch to allow it to happen - if not actually sign the bill (HB 648) - this went away with the battle over permitting same-sex marriages.

Lynch got dragged further to the left than he had wanted. The last thing those close to him wanted was for this bill to help self-identify Lynch as someone who had become a pawn to a Legislature more liberal than he was.

The veto override effort will be hard fought, and truth be told, this issue got further than what had ever been expected, thanks to many people, not the least of whom was lobbyist Bobby Blaisdell.

But supporters are going to find that 15th and 16th vote needed to override Lynch's veto in the State Senate hard, if not impossible, to secure.

Defense of Marriage



Don't look for Lynch to officially join the lawsuit against the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Yes, he did say in signing the same-sex marriage law that the real fight lies in Congress, which should repeal the circa-1996 DOMA.

But now that there are two lawsuits challenging it by same-sex couples, there is no incentive for Lynch to pile on and be seen as trying to force President Barack Obama to fulfill his own campaign promise against the federal law.

Lynch need not act for New Hampshire's gay couples to get benefits if either suits from the Massachusetts-based gay lobby and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley succeed.

NH Survey results



Anyone running a state in this lousy economy would love to have the voter popularity of Gov. Lynch. Consider this review from U.S. agriculture secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack when he visited Concord on Monday:

"Trust me. There is no governor in any other state of this nation that is respected more than John Lynch,'' Vilsack said.

With that as a backdrop, this week's results from the New Hampshire Survey Center reveal that, for the first time, there could be a chink in Lynch's invincible armor.

For starters, his approval numbers remain a rosy 63 percent approval to 27 percent disapproval, with the rest of residents undecided. That's even slightly better than Obama's standing in the state.

Yet, the number who disapprove is nearly twice as high as it's ever been.

This far out from an election, the real benchmark is the right-direction-wrong-track question.

Again, 55 percent in the University of New Hampshire poll say New Hampshire is taking the proper course, but those who believe New Hampshire is on the wrong track-38 percent - was higher than its been since UNH Survey Center Director Andrew Smith started keeping track of this in June 2003.

Finally, Lynch's underbelly is the serious slackening of support for him from the right flank. Among Republicans, his approval rating has slid to 48 percent.

Among self-identified conservatives, the picture is even more bleak, with only 38 percent approving of the governor's performance, and 51 percent left unsatisfied.

New attorney general



When Lynch legal counsel Michael Delaney becomes attorney general, it completes a long line of those who've done very well from being the governor's lawyer, thank you very much.

Here's the lineup of governors and their trusted counsels in the past 40 years:

Gov. Walter Peterson: Legal Counsel Warren Rudman, who went on to become attorney general and later a U.S. senator;

Gov. Peterson: Martin Gross, who would become Concord mayor, husband to the late House Majority Leader Caroline Gross and one of the state's most respected and principled lobbyists in its history;

Gov. Meldrim Thomson: Chuck Douglas, who became associate justice for the Supreme Court and later a U.S. congressman;

Gov. Hugh Gallen: Paul McEachern, a three-time nominee for governor and respected state legislator from Portsmouth;

Gov. John H. Sununu: James D. O'Neill Jr., who would later come associate justice on the New Hampshire Superior Court;

Gov. Judd Gregg: Arthur Brennan, who recently retired from a Superior Court judgeship;

Gov. Steve Merrill: Tina Nadeau, who became one of the youngest-ever judges on the Superior Court;

Gov. Jeanne Shaheen: Judy Reardon, who is now chief legal counsel in Washington, D.C., to Sen. Shaheen;

Gov. Craig Benson: Kelly Ayotte, who later became attorney general and now seeks to be senator.

Gambling commission



Lynch will form a commission to dispassionately analyze the expansion of gambling soon, perhaps this coming week.

A lineup of commission members on both sides of the issue quickly came together, and the wait was for Lynch to find a chairman who is not in either camp to run the show.

Commuter trains



The New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority is chugging along with its plans to seek an ambitious demonstration project to deliver commuter train customers from Boston all the way up to Vermont.

Authority Chairman Peter Burling announced this week that an aggressive fundraising effort produced $121,000 in donations, which, along with $50,000 in federal stimulus, is enough to get the pre-application and planning work for the mega-project off the ground.

Public Service Co. of New Hampshire started the ball rolling with a big gift, followed by a matching grant challenge from Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation was the other big player.

The money allowed the authority to hire nationally-known Trans Systems to put two pre-applications together, the first for construction of the New Hampshire Corridor from Lowell, Mass., up through Pembroke and the other for planning and research into extending that spur up to White River Junction, Vt., Burling said.

"The feedback we are getting from the feds is this is a tightly-crafted, shovel-ready application, and that gives us a lot of hope,'' Burling reported.

Lynches' bike ride



Gov. John and Susan Lynch on Saturday took part in the 35-mile loop of the Annual Prouty Century Bike Ride and Challenge Walk, which starts in Hanover and loops through the Connecticut River Valley.

Lynch just got a new bicycle from his wife and already mastered the fancy, foot-touch straps that generate maximum physical exertion and distance.

But Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes outdid the first pair when he signed up to take the 100-mile course loop.

All the trips are to benefit the Friends of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.
Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 224-8804 or klandrigan@ nashuatelegraph.com.


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Did she or didn't she?

Even Kelly Ayotte's hairdresser doesn't know for sure.

It's a little early for silly season, but media outlets, Democratic partisans and other Republicans with a lustful eye on that Senate seat can't resist trying to snag Ayotte about what promise she did or didn't make to Gov. John Lynch before he reappointed her last April.

Here's what is known:

Right after Lynch's announcement, this reporter spoke with Ayotte and put the commitment question to her. By that time, senior U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg had already said he's not running again, accepted, and then turned down, the commerce position.

Ayotte said she loved the AG job and there was nothing else she could imagine doing for the next four years. But, she pointed out, the latest political upheaval revealed that no one can know what opportunities are in anyone's future.

Then, look at what happened in the past week before Ayotte's abrupt letter of resignation. Former Sen. John E. Sununu takes a pass on a Senate bid in 2010; there's no way Ayotte gets into a primary with him.

Former Gov. Steve Merrill, arguably the most popular state chief executive of his time, gives the same response and demurs a run for the Senate.

That changes everything, even as Ayotte was getting solid encouragement to take the leap during a Washington fact-finding trip, where she met with National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman John Cronyn, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and, of course, Gregg.

Lynch himself seemed a bit uncomfortable with all the speculation about what was or wasn't said at the time he infuriated liberal Democrats by giving another term to the Republican Ayotte.If Lynch secured the "I will serve out'' pledge from Ayotte, what faith could he put into it? He's the same guy who then-Republican Gov. Craig Benson renamed as chairman of the University System Board of Trustees in mid-2003.

Nearly a year later, when Lynch leapt into the race for governor, an irate Benson declared in getting his plum appointment, Lynch had vowed that he wouldn't run against Benson in 2004.

What of the private meeting nearly three weeks ago, when Ayotte filled in Lynch about what spade work she had done about a Senate campaign? Reliable sources have told The Sunday Telegraph at that juncture, Lynch told Ayotte to do what's best for her political future and forget about what was or wasn't committed to 75 days earlier.

All of this is an early lesson for Ayotte that on the cusp of becoming a candidate, nuances matter and being precise about what was or wasn't said, even in a private conversation, has big-time consequences.

We leave this subject with the always-candid observations of ex-Democratic nominee for governor and media talk show host Arnie Arnesen.

Arnesen comes down squarely on the side of the Republican Ayotte in this little dust-up.

"This is like asking, 'Are you going to be pregnant?' '' Arnesen said. "People ask me all the time, 'Are you going to run again?' and I say 'I'm too young to say never and too smart to say yes.' "

"It's ludicrous to try and enforce any kind of commitment, even if there ever was one made. That's wrong and unfair to anyone's personal freedom.''

Ayotte's (possible) competition

Wow, it will be a while before another Powerball play is made after flubbing my odds last week that Ayotte would get into this race.

The Sunday Telegraph listed the pros and cons of running for Ayotte, and then put odds that she would not run.

This came after Ayotte's meeting, when those close to Lynch also thought she'd say out, mainly due to the overwhelming fundraising task required of any first-time candidate for what could become a $10 million race.

Even some GOP insiders who had spoken to Ayotte a few weeks back thought she would step aside.

What changed? There are clear signs the national senatorial GOP group sent signals that raising money would not be an insurmountable task if she got into this fight. The national GOP's top priority in 2010 is to get out from under the 60-vote Democratic majority it faces in the Senate, and that has to start with holding New Hampshire in the red column.

More to the point, this was an act somewhat out of character for the sure-footed, cautious Ayotte. She leaves a secure, high-paying, positive publicity machine to take a flyer that is by no means a given, either in the primary or in November 2010.

Look for Merrimack investor Fred Tausch to continue his expensive, anti-stimulus and pro-personal propaganda machine, and a Senate race appears in his future.

Manchester lawyer Ovide Lamontange has never been the darling of any party's establishment and will make his own independent judgment.

Some believe Ayotte's quick move increases the likelihood that former Congressman Charles Bass ultimately steps to the right and goes back after the Second District seat he lost in 2006.

But that's what raises the ante for Ayotte as Republican potentials keep their powder dry, watching how she handles the first few months of her all-but-inevitable Senate bid.

Merrimack GOP activist Bill Boyd started a Friends of Ayotte page on Facebook this week.

The fight ahead



Ayotte will learn fast that she'll have to fight hard to win over the conservative wing of her party in New Hampshire - and nationally - and still could fail.

Here were a few early reviews, first from Doug Lambert in the Laconia Daily Sun about her cavorting with stimulus-backer Collins in D.C.

"This could spell trouble in lost enthusiasm for a base seeing little difference between a squishy moderate in the mold of a Susan Collins versus a Paul Hodes,'' Lambert wrote.

"I know I would rather vote for nobody, given that option. Why endure the heartache and heartburn of entrenching such a Republican empowered with incumbency status forever? Is it not better to work on the up-and-coming prospects for the next opportunity.''

Then there's national blogger Dan Riehl, who's making hay over Ayotte joining Lynch to urge communities and nonprofit organizations to apply for stimulus money last spring.

"In any event, this is just another unfortunate sign that the Republican establishment is not getting the message. Nor are they going to be able to fool people anymore if they try to claim the banner of fiscal restraint and limited government if those principles are not guiding their actions behind the scenes,'' Riehl wrote.

"People are done being fooled by just another D.C. political party that is more a part of the problem than a potential cure.''

Here's what the Washington Times blog concluded Friday, referring to how national GOP leaders are also rallying behind Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, as they appear to be behind Ayotte.

"The same scenario is playing out again, this time in New Hampshire. When New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, another high-polling Republican, announced she was resigning from her post to begin exploring a bid for the U.S. Senate, the National Republican Senatorial Committee immediately issued a statement calling her a 'formidable candidate for the U.S. Senate if she decides to run' - a strong indication they would be likely to support her once her candidacy is declared,'' The Washington Times blog entry said.

"They also e-mailed conservative bloggers items promoting flattering things political reporters had written about her.

"But, like Mr. Crist, she doesn't appear to be much of a fiscal conservative, either.''

Democrats react



The state Democratic leaders have been hammering Ayotte over the Lynch involvement but getting some blowback this week.

The Telegraph, Foster's Daily Democrat and Union-Leader have all editorialized that the attack on Ayotte is a bit over the top. The UL claimed it was personal and pointed out that it was the AG who gave a clean bill of ethical health to then-Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, who had faced some scurrilous allegations.

True to form, Buckley hit back on the paper's Web site Friday.

"It is absurd to even try to compare the full year later decision of John Lynch to resign from the volunteer post as a UNH trustee to the 16 weeks later decision of Ayotte to abandon her position as the full-time paid NH Attorney General with a desk full of important cases pending. It's not even in the same ballpark,'' Buckley wrote.

"But I get it, you need to create phony indignations to create cover for Ayotte's going back on her word, and please understand that I am talking about her professional word, not her personal word, not that you truly care.''

Ouch!

Workin' on the railroad



Transportation Commissioner George Campbell ducked a major bullet this week in sending to the Executive Council on Wednesday the 10-year renewal lease for the operation of the Milford-Bennington Railroad, a freight line owned by Rep. Peter Leishman, D-Peterborough.

For the past 20 years, Leishman has run the 24-mile, former Boston and Maine track stretch that has rights from Pan-Am Railway since 1987.

It operates daily trains from a Bennington quarry to bring construction material to Granite State Concrete in Milford.

Campbell said Leishman did not properly seek an extension of the lease and when he did submit paperwork, it failed "procedural requirements.''

He insisted that with this and other rail stretches, the only concern is what is best for the freight customers.

"I didn't have any concerns other than that. As long as the customers are being served, that's our responsibility and obligation,'' Campbell said.

He admitted entertaining the idea of letting Pan-Am bid after that rail outfit expressed an interest in getting the service. This was a real burr in Leishman's saddle, since he and Pan-Am have been in court many times over the years as Pan-Am at times has threatened to refuse to honor the right of Leishman's train to pass over.

For the record, Campbell's vast experience includes a stint as a senior assistance vice president for Guilford Transportation, which had these lines before Pan-Am took them over.

"Ultimately, I decided if it's not broke, why try and fix it,'' Campbell said of letting Pan-Am enter the competition.

Lawmakers from both parties rallied to Leishman's behalf including House Finance Committee Chairman Marjorie Smith, D-Durham; former House Speaker and ex-DOT Administration Director Doug Scamman; Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua; and House Public Works and Highways Chairman Candace Bouchard, D-Concord.

"It's all been worked out and I'm glad to hear that,'' Scamman said. "Let's not talk about what would have happened if it didn't."

Scamman got so concerned about this, he met with Lynch privately, and the governor assured him that within 24 hours any kinks in the lease would be ironed out, and they were.

Medical marijuana



The campaign to legalize medical marijuana was the victim of bad timing.

If the proposal ever had a chance of getting Gov. Lynch to allow it to happen - if not actually sign the bill (HB 648) - this went away with the battle over permitting same-sex marriages.

Lynch got dragged further to the left than he had wanted. The last thing those close to him wanted was for this bill to help self-identify Lynch as someone who had become a pawn to a Legislature more liberal than he was.

The veto override effort will be hard fought, and truth be told, this issue got further than what had ever been expected, thanks to many people, not the least of whom was lobbyist Bobby Blaisdell.

But supporters are going to find that 15th and 16th vote needed to override Lynch's veto in the State Senate hard, if not impossible, to secure.

Defense of Marriage



Don't look for Lynch to officially join the lawsuit against the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Yes, he did say in signing the same-sex marriage law that the real fight lies in Congress, which should repeal the circa-1996 DOMA.

But now that there are two lawsuits challenging it by same-sex couples, there is no incentive for Lynch to pile on and be seen as trying to force President Barack Obama to fulfill his own campaign promise against the federal law.

Lynch need not act for New Hampshire's gay couples to get benefits if either suits from the Massachusetts-based gay lobby and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley succeed.

NH Survey results



Anyone running a state in this lousy economy would love to have the voter popularity of Gov. Lynch. Consider this review from U.S. agriculture secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack when he visited Concord on Monday:

"Trust me. There is no governor in any other state of this nation that is respected more than John Lynch,'' Vilsack said.

With that as a backdrop, this week's results from the New Hampshire Survey Center reveal that, for the first time, there could be a chink in Lynch's invincible armor.

For starters, his approval numbers remain a rosy 63 percent approval to 27 percent disapproval, with the rest of residents undecided. That's even slightly better than Obama's standing in the state.

Yet, the number who disapprove is nearly twice as high as it's ever been.

This far out from an election, the real benchmark is the right-direction-wrong-track question.

Again, 55 percent in the University of New Hampshire poll say New Hampshire is taking the proper course, but those who believe New Hampshire is on the wrong track-38 percent - was higher than its been since UNH Survey Center Director Andrew Smith started keeping track of this in June 2003.

Finally, Lynch's underbelly is the serious slackening of support for him from the right flank. Among Republicans, his approval rating has slid to 48 percent.

Among self-identified conservatives, the picture is even more bleak, with only 38 percent approving of the governor's performance, and 51 percent left unsatisfied.

New attorney general



When Lynch legal counsel Michael Delaney becomes attorney general, it completes a long line of those who've done very well from being the governor's lawyer, thank you very much.

Here's the lineup of governors and their trusted counsels in the past 40 years:

Gov. Walter Peterson: Legal Counsel Warren Rudman, who went on to become attorney general and later a U.S. senator;

Gov. Peterson: Martin Gross, who would become Concord mayor, husband to the late House Majority Leader Caroline Gross and one of the state's most respected and principled lobbyists in its history;

Gov. Meldrim Thomson: Chuck Douglas, who became associate justice for the Supreme Court and later a U.S. congressman;

Gov. Hugh Gallen: Paul McEachern, a three-time nominee for governor and respected state legislator from Portsmouth;

Gov. John H. Sununu: James D. O'Neill Jr., who would later come associate justice on the New Hampshire Superior Court;

Gov. Judd Gregg: Arthur Brennan, who recently retired from a Superior Court judgeship;

Gov. Steve Merrill: Tina Nadeau, who became one of the youngest-ever judges on the Superior Court;

Gov. Jeanne Shaheen: Judy Reardon, who is now chief legal counsel in Washington, D.C., to Sen. Shaheen;

Gov. Craig Benson: Kelly Ayotte, who later became attorney general and now seeks to be senator.

Gambling commission



Lynch will form a commission to dispassionately analyze the expansion of gambling soon, perhaps this coming week.

A lineup of commission members on both sides of the issue quickly came together, and the wait was for Lynch to find a chairman who is not in either camp to run the show.

Commuter trains



The New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority is chugging along with its plans to seek an ambitious demonstration project to deliver commuter train customers from Boston all the way up to Vermont.

Authority Chairman Peter Burling announced this week that an aggressive fundraising effort produced $121,000 in donations, which, along with $50,000 in federal stimulus, is enough to get the pre-application and planning work for the mega-project off the ground.

Public Service Co. of New Hampshire started the ball rolling with a big gift, followed by a matching grant challenge from Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation was the other big player.

The money allowed the authority to hire nationally-known Trans Systems to put two pre-applications together, the first for construction of the New Hampshire Corridor from Lowell, Mass., up through Pembroke and the other for planning and research into extending that spur up to White River Junction, Vt., Burling said.

"The feedback we are getting from the feds is this is a tightly-crafted, shovel-ready application, and that gives us a lot of hope,'' Burling reported.

Lynches' bike ride



Gov. John and Susan Lynch on Saturday took part in the 35-mile loop of the Annual Prouty Century Bike Ride and Challenge Walk, which starts in Hanover and loops through the Connecticut River Valley.

Lynch just got a new bicycle from his wife and already mastered the fancy, foot-touch straps that generate maximum physical exertion and distance.

But Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes outdid the first pair when he signed up to take the 100-mile course loop.

All the trips are to benefit the Friends of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.
Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 224-8804 or klandrigan@ nashuatelegraph.com.