Talk the Talk
I will be on the move over the next few days doing all manner of midterm election analysis. Here are a couple places where you’ll be able to get a good dose of NHPoliticalCapital:
Monday, Wednesday: I’ll be a guest on WKXL Radio’s NH Now at 10 a.m. (103.9 FM, 1450 AM, and on the web).
Tuesday: I’ll be participating in New Hampshire Public Radio’s election night coverage, beginning at 7 p.m., and continuing on into the wee hours of the night. You can listen to the results live over the web.
Wednesday: I’ll be a guest on New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Exchange for a midterm election wrap-up show at 9 a.m. (and on the web).
Next Weekend: I’ll be a guest on New Hampshire Public Television’s NH Outlook for a post-midterm election roundtable discussion. Check here for the show’s multiple broadcast times.
Once the electoral dust settles, I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule on Tuesday, November 9th. Here’s to a fascinating election, and of course be sure to vote.  See you soon. -Dean
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Outlook on the Election
You can catch me as a guest on New Hampshire Public Television’s NH Outlook tomorrow at 6 p.m. We will be doing a roundtable discussion of all the major statewide races in advance of Tuesday’s midterm election. You can get more information about the show, including rebroadcast times and web archives, here.
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I'm a Real Live Wire Redux
Instead of my regular posting schedule this week, I will be live-blogging all four of the major candidate debates this week for WMUR-TV. You may remember that I did a couple of these Live Wire events during the primary, and they were a lot of fun. Just like last time, you’ll be able to watch all of the debates live over the web, while reading my real-time analysis of the proceedings on the same page. You’ll also have an opportunity to post your own comments and to submit your questions to me throughout the evening.
To participate in the Live Wire chats, just go to shortly before the 7 p.m. start time for each debate, and click on the large Live Wire banner at the top of the page. The link will take you to the Live Wire website, where you can watch the debates and join in the chat. Tonight’s event is the First Congressional District debate between Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Republican Challenger former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta. Hope to see you there all week.
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Political Capital Spelled with a W.
Let me pause briefly from the relentless midterm election coverage, in order to don my presidential policy hat for a moment. We haven’t heard much from former President George W. Bush since he left office nearly two years ago, but he is just starting to reemerge, in preparation for the release of his memoir, and the groundbreaking for his presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. So, I was interested to read that Bush recently said one of his great regrets as president is that he was never able to accomplish Social Security reform while in office.
I remember the moment in 2004 quite vividly, just two days after reelection, when Bush said that his victory over Massachusetts Senator John Kerry gave him a new infusion of political capital, and that he planned to spend this electoral windfall on reforming Social Security. Although it was gratifying to hear a president actually use a term like political capital, which is frequently employed by political scientists as a key theoretical concept, I was immediately skeptical that he could do it. For me, this was the moment when the Bush presidency made its final pivot and headed irreversibly on a downward trajectory throughout the second term.
I think that Bush fundamentally miscalculated both the level of political capital replenished by his win, and the expenditure of capital that would be required to even make a dent in Social Security reform, given his preference for account privatization. Bush’s victory against Kerry just wasn’t that big, and he was already undertaking two simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Factor in an economy that was showing early signs of decline, and you had a recipe for failed Social Security reform and the 2006 Republican midterm election disaster. Some political scientists (like me) may believe that political capital is a near perfect analytical concept, but I’ve always thought that in the failure of Social Security reform, it was imperfectly understood by President Bush.
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Some Politics is Local
You can catch me as a guest tomorrow morning on New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Exchange. We will be covering the races for New Hampshire’s state House and Senate, as well as the Executive Council. In addition to discussing some of the key contests, we’ll also take a broader look at what impact developments further up the ticket might have on outcomes, and at what changes in the partisan composition of these elected bodies might mean for state policy. You can listen live here at 9 a.m., or check out the podcast later here.
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Surprise Party
You may have read over the weekend that Ovide Lamontagne is planning to hold a Republican unity rally next Tuesday. A perfectly fine idea for his party, but it clearly caught the major Republican candidates by surprise, as some won’t be able to attend due to scheduling conflicts, while others are scrambling to change their schedules.
It is inevitable that some will question Lamontagne’s motivation for holding this rally during the final (and busiest) week of the general election campaign. He has been quite open recently about both his desire to run for public office again in the future, and his intention to set up a political action committee to facilitate his ongoing involvement in state politics. The unavoidable implication is that perhaps Lamontagne views holding this event as his prerogative, given his very close loss to Kelly Ayotte in the primary, and the goodwill he demonstrated in defeat.
I have written previously that Lamontagne would likely use his close finish in September as a springboard for further inserting himself into the general election discourse. This rally, however well-intentioned, seems to be in keeping with that motivation. But given that the U.S. Senate race between Kelly Ayotte and Democratic challenger Rep. Paul Hodes hasn’t turned out to be quite the barnburner it might have been, I wonder what kind of future political return Lamontagne will get on his investment.
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OK, Maybe Not Stunned
I received several emails over the weekend calling me out on the post I put up last Thursday. In the item, I wrote that I was stunned by both the number and nastiness of negative ads (especially from outside groups) run wall-to-wall, during a single half-hour interval on the local evening news. In response, multiple readers suggested that I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) have been surprised by all of the negativity, or the onslaught of group ads.
In thinking again about the episode, and looking back over some of my previous posts, this point is well-taken. I’ve argued for some time that the advocacy group ads are here to stay, and will only get worse. I guess my reaction to the ads was more one of general disappointment that we had already reached a saturation point still almost three weeks out from the election. But yes, I suppose I wasn’t surprised to see it.
I do, however, stand by my argument that this cacophony of negativity may cause undecided voters to tune it all out earlier than ever before. Even I was hitting the mute button by the end of the half-hour. As I also suggested, it is possible that these ads might at least have a mobilizing effect on committed partisans, which I guess would please the relevant campaigns and outside groups.
Note: Back posting on Wednesday. -Dean
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Bobby is Believable
You may have already seen some mention of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s visit to the Granite State yesterday, in order to campaign on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidate John Stephen. Upon setting foot in New Hampshire, Jindal was of course immediately asked whether he was here in part to further a potential run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. As you would expect from most politicians in his position, Jindal said he was not interested in running for president in the next cycle.
Sometimes I feel like rolling my eyes at the fact that virtually any politician with some national name recognition is asked this question when visiting New Hampshire. But in this case, it was not an unreasonable question to ask of a 2008 vice presidential short-lister like Jindal, who has traveled all the way up here from the Pelican State just to spend a little quality time with Stephen.
What surprises me most about this episode, however, is that I actually believe Jindal. I really don’t think he will run for president in 2012. In the wake of all the McCain running mate chatter in 2008, Jindal had a highly visible and politically uneven 2009. You can refresh your memory by reading my take on his high and low points for that year. We haven’t heard all that much from Jindal since, as he seems to have stuck to his promise to spend 2010 focusing on Louisiana.
I think the whole 2008-2009 experience has made Jindal a bit hesitant to get right back under the political microscope. Also, he is only 39 years old, so there is really no rush for him to run at the moment. Jindal is still a good 8-12 years or so away from peak presidential campaigning age, and he will need to spend 2011 focused on his own reelection bid. I don’t know that we’ve heard the last of Jindal as a potential nominee, but unlike some other high-profile Republican visitors to the state, he just doesn’t seem to have been bitten by the presidential bug (at least not yet).
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Advocacy Advertising Anomie
I watched a half-hour of local news the other night, and I was stunned by both the number and nastiness of the political ads being run wall-to-wall during commercial breaks. From the content of these negative ads (or contrast ads, as they are sometimes euphemistically called by their purveyors), you get the feeling that the opposing sides of the political debate are largely living in alternate realities. A candidate described in one ad typically bore no resemblance to that same individual as depicted in an opponent’s ad. I really wonder how much (if any) useful information undecided voters will actually glean from these spots. Maybe the ads will have some mobilizing effect on partisan supporters, but it’s more likely that most voters will simply tune it all out earlier than ever before.
I also noticed the remarkable proliferation of outside advocacy group ads included in the commercial blocks. This phenomenon is currently a hot topic of discussion both locally and nationally. The debate over whether it represents a genuine exercise of free speech or a distortion of the process by outsiders will likely rage on until Congress passes new campaign finance reform, and/or the whole financial disclosure issue emerges from the courts with a different outcome (and even that probably won't end it). I know it’s a real source of frustration for some of the campaigns. No matter how well they do with their candidate’s fundraising, they are still getting overrun by the money these national groups are dropping in the state.
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October Surprised
I am truly sorry to have to step away from the website just as the general election campaign heats up. I’ll be back with new content for you on Thursday, October 14th, and then will be with you straight through to the general election on November 2nd. There is a still lot of excitement (and a few surprises) to come, so I look forward to seeing you back here in one week. -Dean
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The Possibility of Trump
It is almost too awesome to comprehend. Famed New York real estate mogul and larger-than-life media personality Donald Trump has been making the rounds of the morning shows, suggesting that he is seriously considering a run for president in 2012 (watch a clip here). You may have also recently seen a story about Trump polling a presidential bid in New Hampshire, but he denies having anything to do with those phone calls. It is true that Trump is a veteran showman, and is highly skilled at generating a profitable media buzz for whatever enterprise he happens to be promoting at the moment. So, perhaps these appearances are designed with some other public relations purpose in mind, but maybe not.
Were he to run for president, Trump (who says he’s a Republican) would of course have no chance of winning the party’s nomination, and he is not likely willing to do the grueling legwork necessary for a legitimate third party bid. But if he were to run as a Republican, imagine the impact he could have on the political discourse in the primaries. Trump’s bluntness and general antipathy toward political orthodoxy could offer a refreshing (and entertaining) counterpoint to what is otherwise likely to be a grinding debate over which candidate is hewing most closely to the tenets of conservatism. Just imagine the televised debates, and Trump’s ability to bring the New York media along for the ride would a bonus. One can only hope.
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Going at the Governor
I had a number of interesting political conversations with friends and neighbors over the weekend. I should say that their political leanings cover the ideological spectrum from left to right, and to a man and a woman, they all wanted to talk with me about the race for governor of New Hampshire. It wasn’t so much that they thought Governor John Lynch is in serious danger of losing, but they were amazed at the vociferousness with which outside Republican-affiliated groups have gone after him, with several folks mentioning having seen both the Republican Governors Association and Americans for Prosperity television ads aimed at the governor.
In essence, what intrigued them most was simply the spectacle of seeing Lynch in the unfamiliar position of needing to actually mount an aggressive campaign, in order to protect his incumbency. Most had little or no memory of Lynch’s performance as a candidate against Governor Craig Benson in 2004, and that cycle was dominated by the presidential contest between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry, anyway. So, this race feels like something new and different to them, and as a result, they are now watching it with a level of attention which rivals that devoted to any of the other statewide races currently underway.
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