Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

For N.H. Republicans, Pain Is Probably Temporary

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Shaheen’s re-election marks the most pressing priority for Granite State Republicans, who have yet to find a top candidate to challenger her.

These are tough times for New Hampshire Republicans. But if history is any lesson, their anguish will be brief.

In 2012, voters tossed both House GOP members, and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is already an early favorite to win re-election next year. Local Republicans continue to struggle with recruitment against Shaheen and in the gubernatorial race.

Republicans might have to wait a cycle or two before they can come roaring back from the dumps. After all, the GOP controlled both House seats just a year ago. That political moodiness means that opportunity abounds for the politically ambitious.

“When you’re looking at the landscape in New Hampshire right now, Democrats have a strong bench of candidates for federal and statewide office,” state Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said. “When you look at the New Hampshire Republican Party, you’re seeing in a lot of ways the same split you’re seeing nationally.”

Shaheen’s re-election marks the most pressing priority for Granite State Republicans, who have yet to find a top candidate to challenger her. Former Rep. Jeb Bradley, a top GOP prospect, withdrew from consideration because of family illness.

Now many Republicans are focused on former Rep. Charles Bass, a Republican who lost re-election in 2012. Former state GOP Chairman Jack Kimball also named conservative activist Karen Testerman as the strongest tea party candidate in the field.

But the most exciting contest is two years away: Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s 2016 re-election.

“There is no question in my mind that she will garner a primary challenger,” said Kimball, a tea-party-aligned conservative who served a single year at the helm of the state’s GOP executive committee before members nearly ousted him.

Ayotte’s allies argue that any tea party challenger will not be a viable contender. After all, they say, it’s been hard enough for local activists to find a tea party candidate who could threaten Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan this cycle — let alone a sitting GOP senator in 2016.

Republicans concede they are worried about Ayotte’s prospects in the 2016 general election. Democrats frequently mention Hassan as a potential challenger, along with freshman Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and former Gov. John Lynch.

But Ayotte might have her eye on another office by that cycle. Her rise to national prominence means she is mentioned frequently as a vice presidential prospect. If Ayotte becomes her party’s vice presidential nominee, she is eligible to appear on the ballot twice in New Hampshire and run for re-election, according to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office.

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