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Capital Beat

Capital Beat: A lot can change overnight!

Tuesday was a big night for New Hampshire Demo-crats – after two years in the legislative wilderness, they’re back in charge in the House and reduced the Republicans’ Senate majority down to a sliver. They seized a majority on the Executive Council, held onto the governor’s office and won both of the state’s congressional seats.

If there’s anything the wave elections of the past six years have taught us, it’s that a lot can change overnight.

Here are a few other tidbits we picked up in the hours and days after the polls closed.

∎ Republican Ovide Lamontagne’s 12-percentage-point loss to Democrat Maggie Hassan in the gubernatorial race wasn’t good for the Manchester attorney, who’s now 0-for-4 in runs for elected office over the past 20 years. But it was still an improvement from the 17-point margin of victory notched by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen when she beat him in 1996, the first time he ran for the corner office.

∎ If the new composition of the House – 222 Democrats, 178 Republicans, pending recounts – seems familiar, it should. It’s almost precisely the way the House broke down following the 2008 election, when there were 225 Democrats and 175 Republicans.

∎ New Hampshire Democrats didn’t just make gains in the House and Senate. They also closed the gap at the county level, with Democrats now holding 13 of the 30 county commissioner offices, up from 10 before the election. Carroll, Hillsborough and Rockingham counties have all-GOP commissions, while Cheshire and Strafford counties are all-Democratic.

∎ Meanwhile, Merrimack County’s House delegation has gained a decidedly blue hue. The delegation, which has the final say over the county government’s annual budget, contains 35 Democrats and 10 Republicans. Following the 2010 election, the county delegation had included 27 Republicans and 17 Democrats. (Merrimack County picked up an extra representative in redistricting.)

∎ The University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed, over the course of six weeks or so, President Obama leading Mitt Romney by 15, 6 and 8 points, then tied, then Obama up by 4 on the eve of the election. (Obama won the state by about 6 points, so it ended up in about the right place.) Daily Kos, a liberal blog, put UNH in its “2012 polling hall of shame,” noting similar volatility in its polling in the 1st District race: “Such wild, unexplained swings (a hallmark of UNH results) are a mark of shoddy quality control.”

∎ New England College’s new polling unit seemed a little more stable. It took three surveys in the race’s final two weeks, showing Obama leading by 3.2, 5.1 and 4 points, respectively.

∎ Also close to the mark:

Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican who back in late September correctly predicted the outcomes in all 24 state Senate races (pending recounts). Of course, he also predicted Republicans would narrowly hold the House, so nobody’s perfect.

∎ Democrat Stacie Laughton, a newly elected state representative from Nashua, is New Hampshire’s first openly transgender legislator.

∎ Depending on how the race for House speaker turns out, the state’s highest-ranking male Democratic officials could be the two newly elected executive councilors, Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas. (Yes, we know Secretary of State Bill Gardner is a Democrat and stands third in the gubernatorial line of succession, but we don’t think of him as a real partisan guy.)

∎ The House’s birther caucus has gotten a lot smaller. Of the nine Republican representatives who questioned Obama’s citizenship last year in a bid to get him kicked off the state ballot, three won seats in the new House: Al Baldasaro of Londonderry, Moe Villeneuve of Bedford and Larry Rappaport of Colebrook. Harry Accornero of Laconia and Susan DeLemus of Rochester lost their races, and the other four don’t appear to have run for re-election. (If there are any birthers out there we missed, they should let us know so we can, er, update our list.)

∎ It wasn’t just U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass who lost their jobs Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, a Republican who won a U.S. House seat in Minnesota two years ago, lost to Democrat Rick Nolan. Cravaak’s wife and sons live in Windham and he spent his weekends in New Hampshire, raising eyebrows back in the Gopher State.

∎ With Obama’s victory, he picked up New Hampshire’s four electoral votes. The four Democrats who get to cast those votes: former congressional candidates Joanne Dowdell of Portsmouth and Mary Rauh of New Castle, lobbyist Jim Demers of Manchester and Manchester activist Arthur Soucy.

Speaker watch

Assuming the Republicans’ 13-11 majority holds up, Sen. Peter Bragdon of Milford will keep his job as Senate president, and Sen. Sylvia Larsen of Concord will continue to be minority leader.

Things are a little more unsettled on the House side ahead of the Dec. 5 vote on the next speaker.

House Democratic Leader (and former speaker) Terie Norelli of Portsmouth faces a challenge from Rep. David Campbell of Nashua as the Democrats prepare to caucus on Saturday to pick a leader. Republicans will meet Thursday to choose a leader, with Deputy Speaker Pam Tucker of Greenland and Rep. Gene Chandler, a former speaker from Bartlett, among the names in the mix.

Ovide’s outrage

We get the sense that Republican gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne wasn’t too happy with the way things turned out Tuesday. And he thinks he knows what went wrong: All those negative TV ads.

“I’m disappointed in the way this night ended, after the weeks of those negative attack ads distorting you and me,” he said during his concession speech.

Days later, in a thank-you email to supporters, he bemoaned “over $8.5 million of spending on negative attacks by third-party groups.”

We won’t get a somewhat-final picture until Wednesday, when final campaign-finance reports are due from candidates and committees. But one thing seems clear: The race for governor was probably the most expensive race in state history.

Another obvious point: Lamontagne hardly got outspent when it came to the negative-advertising department. (Maggie Hassan’s house, anyone?)

Through Oct. 29, we counted at least $7.85 million in outside spending in the race by groups allied with Lamontagne, compared with about $6.54 million by Hassan’s allies, based on (admittedly incomplete) independent-expenditure reports filed with the secretary of state’s office.

Very New Hampshire

Still, we have to give Lamontagne props for this:

In his post-election email to supporters, he gave out his home address and phone number.

“I hope you will use it to keep in touch with me going forward,” he wrote.

Yep. He’s definitely from New Hampshire.

2 more years!

Gardner, by the way, isn’t going anywhere.

The secretary of state might seem as eternal as granite, but he still has to be elected by the Legislature every two years. He’s been on the job since 1976.

The longtime defender of the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary told us he has no plans to retire, and intends to seek another term.

Quote of the Week

“Speaker William O’Brien’s re-election proves the people’s love of the last N.H. Legislature’s liberty-loving agenda despite the influence of Obamabots on statewide elections.”

That was Rep. Andrew Manuse, a Derry Republican who didn’t run for another term Tuesday, in a Facebook post early Wednesday morning.

Here come the presidents

Time to resuscitate the #FITN hashtag on Twitter: Only three years and two months (or so) until the 2016 presidential primaries.

We know, no one wants to think about it yet. But with wide-open races for both parties in the (eventual) race to succeed Obama, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling is already taking the Granite State’s pulse.

The breakdown, first reported Friday by Talking Points Memo: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leads the field on the GOP side, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would blow all other Democrats out of the water if she ran again.

Assuming Romney doesn’t run again, PPP found Christie favored by 21 percent of GOP voters in New Hampshire, followed by 14 percent for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 13 percent for former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and 11 percent for ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was at 10 percent, tied with “someone else/not sure,” and other names were in the single digits.

On the Democratic side, Clinton would get 60 percent support if she ran, trailed by Vice President Joe Biden at 10 percent, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 7 percent and Massachusetts Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren at 4 percent. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick scored 3 percent, and 15 percent weren’t sure.

If Clinton doesn’t run, PPP found Biden would lead the field with 26 percent, but 36 percent would be undecided. If the veep stays out too, the undecided number rises to 42 percent, with Cuomo at 22 percent followed by Patrick at 18 percent and Warren at 15 percent.

PPP surveyed 515 New Hampshire Democrats and 619 state Republicans just before the election, Nov. 3-4.

Walsh’s new gig

Hassan is getting ready to take office in New Hampshire’s first gubernatorial transition in eight years.

The governor-elect has named Pamela Walsh as her transition director and said an official transition office would open Wednesday.

Walsh, most recently senior adviser to the New Hampshire Democratic Party, was Gov. John Lynch’s deputy chief of staff (and, in a former life, a Monitor reporter) and got a shout-out in Hassan’s victory speech Tuesday night.

“My focus is on reaching out to Democrats, Independents and Republicans across New Hampshire to bring people together to move New Hampshire forward,” Hassan said Friday in a statement. “Few understand how New Hampshire’s government can best serve its citizens as well as Pamela Walsh.”

A sincere thanks

We were still a little loopy a few days after the vote, and we suspect a lot of other people were, too.

Across the state, on both sides of the aisle and up and down the ballot, candidates and staffers ran hard campaigns, many with little money and less sleep – and most still found time to return our calls and emails. To them, we say: thank you.

And now, onward to the legislative session!

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf. Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323 or or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

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