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If Ayotte Runs in NH, It's a Sign Democrats Have Electoral Problems Holding Senate/House Seats in 2010

New Hampshire tends to be about two years ahead of the national electoral party trend and 2010 could prove to tip the balance of power for New Hampshire Democrats.
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New Hampshire in 2010 is very much in play from Senate to dog-catcher, and that could present a challenge for Democrats in 2010 if other states follow suit -- which they often do. I'm not saying 2010 could be Obama's 2006, where that many seats go to the other party, but I am saying Democrats could lose enough important seats to tip the balance of power if they don't see it coming. In 1982, Republicans lost 26 House seats after Reagan's first two years as president, and in 1994, Democrats lost 54 House seats and 8 Senate seats after President Clinton's first two years.

Yesterday, NBC's Chuck Todd accurately reported on the move to draft New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte (Republican appointed by Democratic Governor John Lynch after Republican Gov. Craig Benson). Ayotte would be a dream candidate for the GOP in NH, which has seen every GOP seat since 2006 in play from Republican to Democrat (former Sen. Sununu now Sen. Shaheen, former Rep. Bradley now Rep. Shea-Porter, Former Rep. Bass now Rep. Rep. Paul Hodes.)

Another poignant issue: AG Kelly Ayotte has young children and huge popularity in the state. She won't run if she doesn't think she can win -- and it increasingly looks like she may run.

New Hampshire tends to be about two years ahead of the national electoral party trend, i.e. the wholesale turnover in 2006 to Democrats, not voting for Gore in the 2000 general election, then voting for Kerry in the 2004 general election.

The thinking this cycle is that if Gregg does what he says he will, it's an open seat. Rep. Paul Hodes, who beat Rep. Bass in CD 2 for his seat, announced his Senate candidacy within hours of Sen. Gregg's nomination as Commerce Secretary. Hodes has run an all-out frontal campaign since then. Problem for him is, NH voters tend to recoil at front-runners. (Quoting G.W. Bush after losing by 18 points to McCain in 2000: "NH has long been a bump in the road for front-runners.")

So Hodes is not a slam dunk for Gregg's seat, if there is a good opponent. Absent Kelly Ayotte its hard to see Hodes not having an edge on the seat. With her, its hard to see her not having the edge -- she has crossover appeal and a large base.

As for the Congressional races, Mayor Frank Guinta of Manchester appears to be the one to run against Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. She has been vulnerable since she upset 2006 Primary opponent Jim Craig and won her seat then ousted Rep. Jeb Bradley (now a State Senator after losing his rematch to Porter in 2008). So that one is an unclear outcome.

In CD 2, a crowded Democratic field with Ann McLane Kuster, Katrina Swett, and Mark Fernald should not be any comfort to former Rep. Charlie Bass as he tries to win back his seat.