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Capital Beat

Capital Beat: Ayotte or Hassan for VP? It’s possible

Since 2012, the words “Kelly Ayotte” and “vice presidential nominee” have been heard frequently together. Although she wasn’t Mitt Romney’s eventual choice, speculation about her viability as a national candidate has only grown since.

In February, for example, the Daily Beast ran a story about her headlined, “The GOP already has a 2016 front-runner . . . for vice president.”

On the other side of the aisle, the New York Times recently named Gov. Maggie Hassan as one of several potential female vice presidential picks – if Hillary Clinton doesn’t top the ticket. Other women in the Times story included U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobucher of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Talk to most political operatives in New Hampshire and the more likely 2016 scenario is a Hassan vs. Ayotte U.S. Senate race. Most also agree with the Times’s premise that Clinton would be unlikely to choose a female running mate. This means a confluence of unlikely events – Clinton not winning the nomination and Hassan not running for Senate – would have to occur for Hassan to even be considered for the VP slot. But as one top Democratic operative began listing Hassan’s credentials, one being her status as the Democrats’ only female governor, the idea began to seem not that crazy.

“You know, I’m starting to talk myself into this,” he said.

So, let’s speculate. (“That’s what we do in New Hampshire, right?” said Democratic National Committeeman Peter Burling.) Just what is it that makes two women from a state with only four electoral votes attractive candidates for the country’s No. 2 spot?

Since her election in 2010, Ayotte has become a leading voice in the Republican Party, particularly on foreign policy, where she’s formed an alliance with Republican stalwarts John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Her background as the state’s top prosecutor helps craft an image of a strong woman who will fight for what’s right. She’s adept at balancing the different branches of the Republican Party. Last month, she appeared at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s very conservative Freedom Summit, yet back in October she wasn’t afraid to take on Ted Cruz for his part in the government shutdown.

“My suspicion is that she will be among the top two contenders for the Republican vice president in 2016,” Burling said. “I wouldn’t vote for her, but do I think she has both the ambition and the focus to be a national candidate as vice president? Yes I do.”

Republicans agree. Jim Merrill, a top staffer in both of Mitt Romney’s campaigns, said Ayotte’s name did come up in Romney’s vice presidential deliberations. In 2016, Merrill expects Ayotte to be a major asset to any Republican front-runner, whether as an acting surrogate or as a running mate.

Hassan, for her part, hasn’t expressed or acted on similar national ambitions. But who wouldn’t like a mention as a VP choice?

“The governor was honored to be mentioned alongside such strong women leaders,” her spokesman William Hinkle said of the Times’s story, while noting that Hassan’s focus remains solely on state issues at this time.

Historically speaking, nominees have looked for running mates that give the ticket geographical or political diversity or a significant number of electoral votes. Out of these three criteria, Hassan’s status as a governor is her biggest advantage. Although she’s only a first-term governor, she’s already achieved significant leadership roles within the party. She currently serves as vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. Later this month, she’ll headline the Maryland Democratic Party’s annual dinner (Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley headlined an event for New Hampshire Democrats in December.) Perhaps most importantly, Democrats say she has a noteworthy track record of accomplishing things, such as passing Medicaid expansion and a bipartisan budget, with a split Legislature.

“It has not gone unnoticed that under Maggie Hassan’s governorship, things have gotten done, which is quite a contrast to Washington, where there’s a split Congress and they can’t get anything done,” Democratic strategist Jim Demers said.

With the 2016 election just starting to heat up, we’re still a ways away from knowing what both tickets will look like. But perhaps what’s most exciting is that, in a state that hasn’t had someone on the national ticket since 1853, we’ve now got too potentially serious contenders – and both are women.

Republicans’ favorite (inaccurate) stat

American’s for Prosperity launched another ad against U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen this week, once again attacking her support for Obamacare.

But unlike previous ads, this one cited a statistic that health care premiums in New Hampshire are up 90 percent as a result of Obamacare. The only problem? That stat was based on an interview with one broker in New Hampshire and has been widely discredited. Still, Republicans can’t let it die. In addition to a mention in the AFP ad, gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein cited it in his announcement speech several weeks ago. Scott Brown, Shaheen’s top opponent, planned on using it in his announcement speech, but (wisely) cut it out.

The information came from a Morgan Stanley “survey” released earlier this month that the New Hampshire Republican Party quickly spread around. But, as and several other media outlets have made clear, that 90 percent number came from one broker and doesn’t paint a true picture. A representative from the New Hampshire Department of Insurance specifically told that premiums in the aggregate are expected to decrease. Although with subsidies factored in, a portion of the market could increase significantly, an Insurance Department report said.

But a 90 percent increase across the board? That just simply isn’t true. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped Republicans from citing it.

Questionable ad coordination

Shaheen’s team isn’t getting off easy this week either when it comes to political advertising.

Senate Majority PAC launched a new $212,000 ad buy in New Hampshire this week against Brown, and Republicans say it looks suspicious. Early last week, Shaheen’s camp put out a news release titled “Important message for New Hampshire” with talking points comparing her record with Brown’s. The National Republican Senatorial Committee was quick to point out that its Democratic counterpart has promoted similar “important messages” in Arkansas and North Carolina. In both cases, Senate Majority PAC released ads for the races soon after. Under federal campaign finance laws, campaigns can’t legally coordinate with outside groups known as super PACs.

In New Hampshire, Senate Majority PAC launched an ad attacking Scott Brown for his relationship with “Big Oil” on Friday.

“It is obvious that after railing against outside money, Sen. Shaheen is trying to undermine federal election law and coordinate with Harry Reid’s dishonest outside money group,” state Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn said in a statement.

It’s worth noting the ad doesn’t follow the exact script of the message put out by Shaheen’s campaign. The text on Shaheen’s website mentions her own fight to stop “special breaks” for oil companies and says she is “leading the fight for a bipartisan bill to lower energy costs for consumers and create jobs.” The Senate Majority PAC ad makes no mention of Shaheen, instead focusing solely on Brown.

Shaheen’s campaign says the claim about coordination “rings false” and that outside ads from groups like Senate Majority PAC wouldn’t exist if Brown had signed the so-called People’s Pledge.

“We remain ready to meet at any time and place to negotiate this agreement,” Harrell Kirstein, Shaheen’s campaign spokesman, said in a statement.

Testerman’s Bundy defense

Scott Brown is talking about Obamacare. Jim Rubens in talking about the Second Amendment and choice in education.

Karen Testerman is talking about . . . Cliven Bundy.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, the Nevada rancher got in a standoff with federal officials earlier this month when they showed up to demand he stop letting his cattle graze on public lands. A number of right-wing and militia groups made their way down to Nevada to help him defend his claim to the land. One of those defenders is former New Hampshire state representative Jerry DeLemus.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, called Bundy and his defenders “domestic terrorists,” and Testerman is not happy about it. She’s called on Shaheen and Ayotte to publicly denounce Reid’s comments, a call they will probably not heed.

What to watch

∎ The Senate’s two-casino bill will come to the House floor Wednesday. It comes in with a committee recommendation of inexpedient to legislate, meaning a majority of House members will need to vote against that recommendation in order for attempts to tack on several marijuana bills to even begin.

∎ State labor and business groups in support of the Keystone XL pipeline will hold an event for New Hampshire lawmakers on the State House lawn at noon Wednesday to explain why the pipeline is relevant to New Hampshire and urge statewide support.

∎ The House will vote on “Joshua’s Law,” a bill creating the crime of domestic violence. The bill, named after the young boy killed by his father in a Manchester YWCA last year, passed the Senate unanimously and comes to the floor with a near-unanimous recommendation from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments2

Given that the VP is not exactly a tough position. The fact that among others we have had Spiro Agnew, Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin and now what's his name. Who really cares about a VP.

I wouldn't want either of them as VP. And yet this seems to be the Monitor's "Maylasian airliner story" of the moment. This is twice I've seen it in a week!

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