Key Point: "Guinta is a politician liked by only 27 percent of his former constituents, who only has $400 in his campaign account, has $288,000 in campaign debt, and who most likely will face a credible primary challenger. Ayotte is the de facto head of the state Republican Party, whose own poll numbers are suffering since the spring, and who was supposed to play a role this election cycle as the Republican king not the Republican kingmaker in unsorted out primaries. Ayotte said yes to Guinta. Yes, she would attend an Oct. 8 fundraiser with Guinta and share a stage with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who does nothing to help Ayotte’s own re-election chances. "
WMUR Political Scoop -- Analysis: Ayotte's endorsement of Guinta has everyone calling
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte didn’t think this one through.
Published September 24, 2013
By James Pindell
The other day her friend and former colleague Frank Guinta called her up, and she said yes, of course, she would do a favor for him. But this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill favor among friends. Guinta wasn’t asking Ayotte for her unused Red Sox tickets, or for a work recommendation, or to attend his kid’s birthday party.
Guinta was asking Ayotte to attend a high-profile fundraiser for his political comeback campaign. He was essentially asking for her endorsement. Guinta is a politician liked by only 27 percent of his former constituents, who only has $400 in his campaign account, has $288,000 in campaign debt, and who most likely will face a credible primary challenger. Ayotte is the de facto head of the state Republican Party, whose own poll numbers are suffering since the spring, and who was supposed to play a role this election cycle as the Republican king not the Republican kingmaker in unsorted out primaries.
Ayotte said yes to Guinta. Yes, she would attend an Oct. 8 fundraiser with Guinta and share a stage with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who does nothing to help Ayotte’s own re-election chances. It is very believable that she meant saying yes to Guinta as a kind gesture to an old friend and not as an endorsement of his campaign. But she isn’t just showing up to the fundraiser, she is literally the top billing on the fundraiser’s printed invitation. That, especially since it is during the campaign kickoff event, is an endorsement.
Before we get into the implications of Ayotte winging it, let’s get one thing out of the way: Good for Guinta. He did the earnest thing by asking Ayotte and she might have messed up, but he maximized as any ambitious politician should. His only incentive is to look out for himself and not her.
Most in Ayotte’s position would quietly help her friend behind the scenes, but not officially get involved in a Republican primary below her on the ballot as a matter of principle. Did you see U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen get involved in Democratic congressional primaries in 2010 or the Democratic primary for governor last year? No, but her people still picked a side.
Ayotte could steer fundraisers and staff and intelligence Guinta’s way, but she wouldn’t have to “own” Guinta and any mistakes he makes. The full-on help would happen in the general election.
But here we are with Ayotte and we can only imagine the phone calls she is getting today.
Line 1: Dan Innis
Innis is expected to challenge Guinta in the Republican primary. So far, the Republicans who have talked to him say good things. They might be a little worried he isn’t ready for prime time on the issues, but he is a nice guy and his profile as a gay married Republican who is a fiscal conservative might be good for the party. He is a few weeks away from announcing his campaign, but last week announced he was stepping down as dean of the University of New Hampshire's business school. It is a sign he is serious about running. Innis on the phone wondering what he did to deserve Ayotte getting involved in his primary. Couldn’t she at least let him announce and hear him out first?
Line 2: Gary Lambert
Earlier this month, former state Sen. Gary Lambert announced that he would run for Congress in the state’s other congressional district. Lambert is on the line wondering if Ayotte would endorse him. After all, he is a much safer choice. He is from her hometown. Like her husband, he served in the military overseas. Unlike Guinta, he has never lost a race -- granted he has only been in one race -- and unlike Guinta, he isn’t facing a primary challenge.
If Ayotte is endorsing people for Congress, why can’t she endorse him also and steer money his way?
Line 3: The National Republican Congressional Committee
The NRCC, the group charged with electing Republicans to the U.S. House, probably wants to hear from Ayotte how much she really cares if Guinta is elected or not. Lately they were still hot on the idea of recruiting a woman into the race like state Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry. Should they drop that effort now?
Line 4: Charlie Bass
The phone lines are already getting busy, but surely Ayotte will take a call from Bass. He is thinking about running for the U.S. Senate, to be her colleague. Wouldn't Ayotte like to serve with him in the Senate and have him in her pocket versus trying to work with a loyal Democrat like Jeanne Shaheen. Bass wants her endorsement so he can begin a strong U.S. Senate campaign. He also has a good argument for Ayotte. If she endorsed Guinta because he is a friend and former colleague then, well, isn't Bass a friend and former colleague also? Yes, Bass will have a primary, but that didn't stop her from endorsing Guinta.
Line 5: New Hampshire House Republican leader Gene Chandler
Chandler was once House speaker, got caught up in some scandal, and has been carefully plotting his comeback. If he were to get Ayotte on the line he would probably remind her that 2014 will be his big chance. But here is the thing: He needs her to recruit a candidate for governor. Chandler is worried that if Republicans put up someone like Jim Coburn or Joe Kenney like they did in 2006 and 2008, that maybe Republicans won’t have the juice to take back the New Hampshire House.
Line 6: Former Gov. Steve Merrill
Merrill chaired Ayotte's campaign for U.S. Senate and is one of the brightest political mindsin New Hampshire. Surely he is beside himself, particularly after hearing from his friend, Bass. He would remind Ayotte that this is going against her own political interest. Ayotte is up for re-election in 2016 and everyone assumes she will be up against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. In a Public Policy Poll last week on the hypothetical Ayotte-Hassan matchup the race was tied statistically. The point, then, is to find a good candidate for governor who will bruise up Hassan next year before she has to take him on. To date, there are no Republican candidates for governor.
All of these phone calls wouldn’t have happened if Ayotte simply paused and told Guinta she would need to think about it and call him back.