Sununu or Later
As John DiStaso’s column in the Union Leader today underscores, there seems to be an emerging consensus among local Republican political elites that John E. Sununu should have the right of first refusal to run for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Judd Gregg in 2010. The party appears acutely aware that it needs to develop a deeper bench of potential candidates for statewide office, but perhaps believes a high-stakes Senate race is not the optimal place to test-drive new talent. A run for one of the House seats may be a more appropriate place to see who can swim.
The argument I frequently hear in John Sununu’s favor is that in addition to instant name recognition, he has the campaign experience, fundraising ability, and understanding of the office necessary to hit the ground running against an opponent likely to be a sitting Member of Congress (i.e., Paul Hodes or Carol Shea-Porter). All of this sounds like reasonable political calculation to me, provided it is not based on the mistaken notion that Sununu lost last November only because he was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Until it becomes clear to me that Republican elites in the state have moved beyond the idea that Jeanne Shaheen’s victory was a fluke largely driven by temporary national forces, I will remain skeptical of Sununu’s ability to win back a seat in the Senate. Rerunning a name brand might very well be the best option for Republicans. But given the changing political demography of the state, the party also needs a fresh message. This is something on which Sununu’s Republican legislative colleagues in Washington don’t seem to be making much progress at the moment. If Sununu hangs his comeback on a similar boilerplate “return to conservative principles” message, I think it will be a very difficult race for him.


Posted On: 02-20-2009 11:26:51 by Jim Splaine
I'd like to see a poll that specifically asks voters who voted in November, 2008, to name two (2) issues which were emphasized by either John Sununu or Jeanne Shaheen. I would guess that only about 30% of the voters, or about one in every three, followed the New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidates closely enough to know what they said about the issues, despite the millions spent on advertising or the hundreds of campaign appearances by each candidate. I'm a Jeanne Shaheen supporter, and I'm very pleased she's our Senator. But I think there was a large percentage of voters who voted "Democrat" last November -- going down the list on the ballot even though we had done away with the "straight ticket" circle -- and were drawn to the polls because Barack Obama was on the ballot. The unfortunate thing for my party in November, 2010, is that we don't have Barack Obama on the ballot. And especially if things continue to go south with the economy, and/or if body bags coming back from Afghanistan top 1,000 (the count is already at about 700) because the President is sending even more troops there, a lot of Democrats and independents who voted Democrat in the last election will stay home. John Sununu could be a very tough candidate in 2010. His time also won't be so divided next time as it was in 2008, when he spent much time in Washington because of the economic downturn that began in mid-September. That's why my advice to my fellow Democrats has been that Democrats have to act like Democrats, nationally and statewide. We shouldn't be in Afghanistan, and we have to get out. The original Obama timetable for getting out of Iraq needs to be followed, not extended. In our state, we have to invest in our people, not cut important and vital programs. And we have to continue our social anti-discriminatory causes, because that's what the people who have supported us all these years expect of us.

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