When Sununu was asked to discuss his strategy against Shaheen for this cycle, he firmly declined. “I certainly wouldn’t share with you,” he said. “Why would I lay out, why would any candidate lay out the approach that they’re going to take, every detail of the approach that they’re going to take to the race?”
He was, however, not timid about criticizing his opponent’s record as governor — something Republican strategists have said they would do to close the gap.
“I think her service as governor demonstrated a real lack of leadership, failure to deal with the most important problem facing the state ... education funding,” Sununu continued. “And as a result of her failed leadership, that issue is still a crisis in New Hampshire today. She raised spending to record levels, tried to give the state a sales tax, which would have devastated our economy. That’s a pretty weak record.”
Shaheen spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield defended Shaheen’s tenure as governor and charged that Sununu was trying to take attention away from his record in the Senate “voting for George Bush’s failed policy in Iraq and supporting Bush fiscal policies, which have exploded the deficit.”
“Jeanne Shaheen was a strong leader for New Hampshire who expanded access to kindergarten and health care for New Hampshire’s children, implemented the first state law to reduce the four pollutants that contribute to global warming, presented a balanced budget to the Legislature every term she was governor and kept the state’s tax burden the lowest in the nation,” Bedingfield said.
An analysis of public events supplied by the respective campaigns of Sununu and Shaheen for the two weekends of April 26-27 and May 3-4 showed the incumbent bested Shaheen in the number of events when the tally includes official appearances, rather than just campaign stops. During those two weekends, Sununu’s staff listed 20 public appearances that the Senator made in New Hampshire, whereas Shaheen had about 10 public events over the entire past two weeks.
But of Sununu’s 20 in-state events, two were political in nature, such as a county Republican Party dinner. The remaining 18 were considered by Sununu’s office to be part of his official duties.
“He’s not publicizing his appearances as much as he usually does,” said one Republican official. “His travel has been a lot more quiet than it has usually been.”
The Republican, who declined to be named, suggested that publicizing Sununu’s weekend schedule might only invite trouble from Democratic activists who are tracking the incumbent.
“I think a lot of that disconnect is that they’re just not getting the press releases out there,” said the official. “It could be that he’s just more quiet, which could be feeding that rumor that he’s just not started.”
Jack Heath, a conservative radio host and GOP consultant who came within 1,000 votes of defeating Sununu in the seven-way GOP House primary in 1996, said Sununu’s perceived slow start may have something to do with the fact that the Senator takes on a lot of his campaign’s tasks himself.
“His engineering background is something not to be taken for granted,” Heath said. “He’ll engineer his own re-election. He’s not going to have a boatload of consultants doing his race.”