Now What?
Now what? That was the question I heard asked by some New Hampshire Democrats over the weekend, after learning that Governor John Lynch will not seek a fifth two-year term in office. The question is an implicit recognition of the reality for local Democrats that the recruitment pool for Lynch’s successor was decimated by the big statewide Republican gains in the 2010 midterm elections. As I have often noted, the genius of Lynch’s governing style is in his ability to present himself as the quintessential non-politician politician, an approach which I have seen few others at that level of elective office replicate with success. So, Lynch will be difficult to replace for that reason alone.
But there is a deeper structural issue here that is problematic for Democratic recruitment. Lynch’s popular centrist political tendencies are really a throwback to 1990s-style Democratic politics, as embodied in the ideological positioning of politicians like Bill Clinton and Jeanne Shaheen (especially as governor), and in now defunct grassroots organizations like the Democratic Leadership Council. By the time of the landmark Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008, however, that paradigm had largely been supplanted by progressives who brought a much more explicitly liberal partisan bent to Democratic politics in the Granite State, one which worked well for them until 2010.
Given last year’s depressing midterm election results for Democrats, and the inhospitable political environment they still face, my guess is that anyone recruited up through the local progressive ranks during those years (that is still standing politically) would have a difficult time staging a comeback to retain the governorship for Democrats. Like Lynch, a viable candidate will likely have to come from somewhere else in the party, but, in my conversations with Democrats over the weekend, no one seemed to know from where.

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