Editorial: In 2012, GOP was out of sync with voters
The New Hampshire election of 2012, like that of 2010, was a pendulum swing strong enough to ring the gong of change. A massive Republican rout that swept more than a few lawmakers with a questionable hold on reality into office was followed just two years later with Tuesday’s vote, which saw Demo-crats retain the governor’s office and regain control of the House.
From the results, you might think New Hampshire was a state with an identity crisis.
But the 2010 election was an aberration. It was less a response to Democrats in the State House than a protest against the terrible economy and the passage of Obamacare. The vote for state offices on Tuesday was a course correction, one amplified by voter reaction to the extreme agenda pursued with a vengeance by House Speaker Bill O’Brien and the antics of a Legislature that became an embarrassment. With luck, voters won’t be forced to correct the course quite so dramatically again.
Republican candidates in 2012 found themselves at odds with mainstream voters. In the governor’s race, Republican Ovide Lamontagne embraced a New Hampshire that disappeared decades ago yet lives on in myth. It is a New Hampshire of rock-ribbed conservatism and parsimony symbolized by the mean-spirited reign of governor Meldrim Thomson and newspaper publisher William Loeb. But New Hampshire is neither a bastion of conservatism nor even a reliably Republican state. It is, and has been, a fiscally conservative, socially liberal state, more small-l libertarian than anything else. Fully 39 percent of New Hampshire’s voters are independents.
Nationally, the Republican Party embraced antiquated and intrusive policies on abortion, the role of religion in politics, and equal rights for women and gays that left New Hampshire’s more tolerant populace behind. To be competitive, the state GOP will have to find a way to differentiate itself from a national party whose agenda has been driven by members from states that appear to be in time zones that differ from ours by a couple of decades.
Nationally, Mitt Romney beat President Obama by a wide margin among whites and older voters. New Hampshire is older and whiter than most states, but the president won handily here. The reason, we believe, is that the state’s residents, like those in most of New England, are better-educated, better off, less religious and more tolerant than their counterparts in most of the nation.
Democrats won eight of the last nine elections for governor and the sole Republican winner, Craig Benson, was ousted after a single term. New Hampshire has been trending Democratic for quite some time. Unless newly elected Democrats overreach, that trend will continue.