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MANCHESTER, N.H. — When Ann Romney took the stage here last week to thank supporters for helping propel her husband, Mitt, to victory in the Granite State, Rep. Charles Bass was among the few individuals she singled out for praise.
No doubt the appreciation runs both ways. Bass, among the most heavily targeted Republican incumbents of 2012, endorsed Romney, and New Hampshire Republicans believe having the former Massachusetts governor at the top of the ticket is essential for the Congressman to fend off a challenge from Democrat Ann McLane Kuster this November. Bass narrowly defeated her in 2010 to win back a House seat he lost four years prior.
“I think having Mitt on the ballot would help Charlie Bass, especially since he endorsed him and was out there campaigning for him,” New Hampshire Republican strategist Brad Card said. “He’s in the type of district where it’s going to be close.”
Democrats argue that Bass’ political vulnerabilities in the Granite State’s swing 2nd district are too great to be saved by Romney, even if he succeeds in defeating President Barack Obama here 11 months from now. Democrats contend that Obama will win New Hampshire but suggest that even if he doesn’t, his performance will in no way resemble then-Rep. Paul Hodes’ (D) poor showing against now-Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) in 2010.
Kuster, during a lengthy interview in Concord, N.H., the day after the Republican presidential primary that Romney won by 16 points, said Hodes’ top-of-the-ticket, 23-point loss to Ayotte in the last Senate race is responsible for her 3,551-vote loss to Bass. Kuster also believes that her status as the presumptive nominee will enable her to solidify voter support early and focus on contrasting herself with Bass. Last cycle, she had a primary opponent.
New Hampshire Congressional primaries occur late in the cycle — in September — and in 2010, Kuster’s campaign spent about $1 million to win the competitive Democratic contest before it was able to focus on Bass. Sitting in a bagel shop just down the block from the state Capitol, Kuster explained why she believes this race will be different than her first. To begin with, she said, Romney leading the ticket would be “a gift.”
“They don’t have a candidate that can beat the president,” Kuster said.