DNC - National Journal: GOPers in NH are Increasingly Worried that Ayotte's Campaign is Floundering

Key Point: GOPers in NH are increasingly worried that Ayotte's campaign is floundering. One of her opponents, businessman Bill Binnie (R), has already run TV ads and another, businessman Jim Bender (R), will go on the air next week. Ayotte raised less than Rep. Paul Hodes (D), the likely Dem nominee, and her team acknowledges they had a rough start as a campaign. A new poll in the state due out today will show her losing ground -- but still leading -- '96 Gov. nominee Ovide Lamontagne (R).

 
National Journal: Favorite Candidates Have Rough Week
Reid Wilson 
February 5, 2010

 

From demon sheep to a series of campaign flubs, this hasn't been a good week for 2 prominent GOP Senate candidates -- even as the party talks, for the first time, about the prospect of taking back the majority in the upper chamber.
 
But problems both ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina (R) and ex-NH AG Kelly Ayotte (R) faced this week mask a deeper truth: Their nominations aren't the foregone conclusions they once seemed.
 
Fiorina's ad team was widely mocked this week for a web ad in which she compared her opponent, ex-Rep. Tom Campbell (R), to a demon sheep. And a roll-out of endorsements gave reporters a chance to question Ayotte's role in a legal opinion that has come under fire.
 
In both cases, GOPers are becoming worried that their favorite candidates aren't performing well against primary rivals. Fiorina's camp has been hammering Campbell on his fiscal record, suggesting their internal numbers mirror public polls, which show Campbell out ahead. The latest survey, from PPIC, shows Campbell leading with 27%, Fiorina at 16% and Assemb. Chuck DeVore (R) at 8%.
 
DeVore has not raised much money so far, and Campbell only recently abandoned his GOV bid in favor of a SEN race. But Fiorina's own campaign spent much more than it raised, and only turned in a good financial performance because of a $2.5M loan the candidate gave her campaign.
 
GOPers in NH are increasingly worried that Ayotte's campaign is floundering. One of her opponents, businessman Bill Binnie (R), has already run TV ads and another, businessman Jim Bender (R), will go on the air next week. Ayotte raised less than Rep. Paul Hodes (D), the likely Dem nominee, and her team acknowledges they had a rough start as a campaign. A new poll in the state due out today will show her losing ground -- but still leading -- '96 Gov. nominee Ovide Lamontagne (R).
 
Now, Ayotte is aiming to carve out a niche among conservatives. Her campaign sees the race as between herself and Binnie, reasoning that Lamontagne won't have the financial resources to compete in the long term. Ayotte's camp launched its first ad this week, a $15K radio ad buy aimed at conservative stations in the state. And, a source close to the campaign points out, they have a far larger slice of on-the-ground support than any other candidate -- something that matters in a retail politics state like NH.
 
Both the Ayotte camp and the NRSC say they are pleased with how the campaign is progressing.
 
The NRSC has not formally endorsed either Ayotte or Fiorina, but they clearly favor the 2. NRSC chair John Cornyn's PAC has given $10K to Ayotte, and the NRSC has formed a joint fundraising committee with Fiorina (though they say they are willing to form the committee with any candidate who asks).
 
Other NRSC-favored candidates aren't doing especially well either. KY Sec/State Trey Grayson (R) has less money in the bank than ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R), and FL Gov. Charlie Crist (R) -- the only NRSC-endorsed candidate in the country -- now trails ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) in polls.
 

But each of the 4 candidates have a long time before their state's primaries, and none are doomed. After all, it's not the first time an NRSC-favored candidate has faced a challenge; Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) had to go through atty Patrick Hughes (R) before he secured the IL GOP nomination for Sen. Roland Burris's (D) seat. Earlier this week, Kirk beat Hughes by a 57%-19% margin.