Ayotte, New Hampshire’s top Republican, is the face of the state GOP. But sources say that although the senator is willing to get involved in local party squabbles, she’s “not an operator” of party mechanics.
This factionalism led to upheaval at the party’s helm. Party chairmen and executive directors come and go (or are sometimes outright ousted), which means various officials and operatives are pitted against each other about once a year.
The great hope is that Horn can bridge these divides. But she must reign over a party leadership that is clearly transitional.
“I have always had strong relationships with members of all arms of the party,” Horn wrote in an email. “There is room in the Republican Party for a broad spectrum of ideas. I am convinced that we are all committed to a greater cause and as long as we respect each other we can build winning efforts.”
For years, former Gov. John H. Sununu has served as the GOP’s center of power in the state. But now, local Republicans sense he is easing back from meddling in local politics.
Some Republicans look to the state’s top Republican, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, to fill the leadership vacuum. But sources say that while she is willing to insert herself into local party squabbles — and usually gets her way — she is “not an operator” of party mechanics.
Aside from these internal clashes, what hurts the party most is what the state fights so hard to keep: its first-in-the-nation primary placement on the presidential nominating calendar.
In 2016, national Republicans will host their third nomination battle for the White House in as many presidential cycles. As a result, the local GOP’s most talented political staff spends at least two years of every cycle working against one another on presidential campaigns.
“This makes it a little harder to come back together for common purposes afterward for state candidate work that is not as glamorous as working for a presidential candidate can be,” Cullen said.
But for other Granite State Republicans, the most frightening problems are the unforeseen. Despite New Hampshire’s swing status, GOP operatives remained bullish through last October that Mitt Romney would carry the state. But President Barack Obama won it by 6 points.
“I don’t think the [state party’s dysfunction] contributed to it,” one GOP operative said. “Obama ran an incredible campaign in New Hampshire. He was doing things we weren’t even thinking about.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.