DSCC - UNION LEADER: Ayotte Put On The Defensive

note: www.discoverovide.com <http://www.discoverovide.com/> now online

Ayotte put on the defensive

Senior Political Reporter

ON DEFENSE. Kelly Ayotte has been actively campaigning for only a few weeks, but she already finds herself on the defensive, mostly over her "relationship" with the Washington-based National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Officially the NRSC has not "endorsed" Ayotte, but chair Sen. John Cornyn has recruited her and praised her while ignoring the other likely GOP candidate, Ovide Lamontagne.

There also have been reports that the NRSC will be holding a fund-raiser for Ayotte. Ayotte campaign manager Brooks Kochvar says that's sort of a misnomer because the event on Sept. 22 "is a Friends of Kelly Ayotte event" being held in a room at NRSC headquarters in D.C.

"It's our event. We're paying for it and we're hosting it," he said. But not wanting to "mislead," he acknowledged Cornyn and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell "will attend the event as our invited guests."

GOP insiders, including the state GOP chairman, have been skeptical of the NRSC's involvement in a New Hampshire race. Former Gov. John H. Sununu told The Washington Times this week, "I hope the NRSC understands that New Hampshire doesn't really respond well to having candidates designated from outside the state."

Ayotte supporters are fighting back, pointing out that Democratic candidate Paul Hodes has raised nearly $1 million, has nearly $900,000 on hand and has been receiving help from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which seems to issue a news release a day blasting Ayotte.

Kochvar says Ayotte is simply accepting help that any Republican would take. He noted that Lamontagne and state Republican National Committeeman Sean Mahoney, who is also eyeing a run for the Senate (or possibly governor) have been to the NRSC for talks, but were not criticized for it.

"The big thing is the DSCC involvement," he said. "They are clearly worried about Kelly. They know there is excitement here and they clearly think she can win."

Kochvar said that Ayotte "has made 400 to 500 calls at this point and not one person has brought up the so-called 'Washington issue.' Other than a couple of consultants and Ovide loyalists, not a single person is concerned about it."

Ayotte will continue to meet GOP activists on Saturday at the Rockingham County GOP's Family Day in Brentwood. Next Wednesday she will tour the North Country with veteran activist Tony Urban and will speak to Portsmouth Republicans on Thursday.

She also picked up the endorsement of Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek this week.

Meanwhile, Lamontagne launches his own Web site today, dubbed discoverovide.com <http://www.discoverovide.com/> .

BOXER PITCHING FOR PAUL. California Sen. Barbara Boxer's PAC for a Change sent an e-mail to its full list of supporters this week, praising and soliciting funds for Hodes and fellow Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan of Missouri, both of whom are running next year for open GOP seats.

At the same time, a separate Hodes campaign "Dear Granite State Democrat" fund-raising solicitation has landed in New Hampshire mailboxes.

Hodes, in the scathing four-page piece, warns that the "change you and I voted for last year is in serious danger" as the Republicans "are pulling out all the stops" to regain filibuster power.

He calls Ayotte his "most likely opponent," cites her pro-life position and says that with national Republicans "chomping at the bit to help her, their millions of dollars in negative advertising will turn her into a dangerous foe."

He also accuses Republican businessman Fred Tausch, who decided last month not to run for the Senate, of making "ugly personal attacks" against him, calling them "a preview of the mudslinging I can expect from the Republican slime machine during this campaign."

The piece also contains a red and blue map of the U.S. showing what he calls "The threat to Obama's agenda -- and your America."

Interesting piece, but Hodes may want to tighten his list a bit. This one found its way into a least a few Republican mailboxes.

DUPLICITOUS KELLY. As if it hasn't been intense enough, the state Democratic Party intends to lauch a new effort to highlight Ayotte's "duplicitous statements and action," according to an internal party memo.

Beginning today, "Every time Ayotte blatantly says or does something just to get elected, the New Hampshire Democratic Party will send out an alert spotlighting her duplicity," communications director Victoria Bonney tells party higher-ups.

Her lengthy memo cites Ayotte's meeting with Cornyn and McConnell. It notes that she opposed gambling as attorney general but then attended a fund-raiser co-sponsored by Foxwood Casino. It cites her support as attorney general for a stimulus-funded program to investigate "cold cases" and her opposition to the recovery and reinvestment act as a candidate.

Bonney also compares Ayotte to former U.S. Rep. Bill Zeliff, of all people. She says he relied on "Washington insiders" when he ran for governor in 1996, and lost a GOP primary -- to Lamontagne.

Some Democrats we spoke with this week believe Ayotte is a "true believer" conservative, but Bonney says, "It is clear that Ayotte's D.C. advisors have told her that she must woo the extreme right wing of her party if she wants to win -- even if that means she has to say or do things purely for political gain."

She predicts that Ayotte will lose the primary (if she has one) because voters "want authenticity in their leaders."