Resolutions for Both Sides
Because it's party time for NH politics
Illustration by Peter Noonan
'Tis the season for New Year's resolutions. With 2012 being an election year it's also appropriate to pause and reflect on what goals state political parties should be setting.
In the 2012 elections, New Hampshire could sustain a deep conservative uptick even though long-term demographic trends suggest the state will become more progressive. The winners and losers this year will largely be determined by how well the different players set their resolutions and keep them. Here is a rundown of who should be doing what.
New Hampshire Democrats should resolve to have several competitive internal primaries. The problem with the Democratic Party locally is that there isn't a large pool of candidates to run for major offices. They have long thwarted meaningful Democratic primaries for positions like State Senate thinking money should be spent defeating the other party and not each other. It is a valid point, but it doesn't assure that the best possible candidate wins, and there isn't a pool of defeated candidates with name recognition and campaign experience to try for other positions in the next cycle. That's why Democrats have limited options for candidates for governor this year. They do have two State Senators who lost re-election, a former Portsmouth Mayor who last appeared on a ballot in 2005 and a lawyer who served as the state's attorney general a dozen years ago. Republicans, on the other hand, have ample candidates for competitive primaries for Governor and for a U.S. Senate race still two years out.
Also, Democrats must focus mostly on the biggest races this year: President Obama's re-election and the open race for governor. All experts seem to agree Democrats will pick up seats in the Statehouse and the State Senate, but Republicans will keep their majorities. If Democrats want to have any power they need a Democratic governor to veto bills from the Republican legislature. Recent electoral analysis shows that the Democratic nominee for governor will be toast if the Democratic presidential nominee is toast in the state. So if Democrats want a shot at taking governor, they need to help out Obama.
New Hampshire Republicans have a much easier resolution this year: Shut up. State elections will likely be defined by President Obama's approval ratings here and the mood of the national economy. Obama presently has a 41 percent approval rating in this state, among his lowest ever. The national unemployment rate is still near 9 percent - 8.6, to be exact. No president since the Great Depression has been re-elected in that climate.
Republicans, who want a limited government anyway, should pack up their bags and not make any news. Nothing on gay marriage. Nothing on President Obama's birth status. Nothing controversial on guns. Nothing on abortion. They can hold their agenda until after election day and then act on it.
But for those in the messy business of politics, setting goals and meeting them are about as likely as you still going to the gym in February.