Ayotte on missing RNC: ‘I’m here where the people of N.H. are’

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks with Hypertherm employee Steve Bly during a tour of the New Hampshire-based manufacturer in Lebanon on Tuesday. BELOW: Ayotte walks through the plant with employees. She said she has no plans to attend the RNC in Cleveland. Photos by ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte visits Hypertherm in Lebanon on Tuesday. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the RNC in Cleveland this week. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte arrives at Hypertherm, a New Hampshire based manufacturer, in Lebanon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, for a tour of the business. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Ohio this week. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte visits Hypertherm, a New Hampshire based manufacturer, in Lebanon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Ohio this week. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte meets Hypertherm employee Kelly Randall during a tour of the New Hampshire based manufacturer in Lebanon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Ohio this week. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte visits Hypertherm, a New Hampshire based manufacturer, in Lebanon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Ohio this week. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte visits Hypertherm, a New Hampshire based manufacturer, in Lebanon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Ohio this week. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte visits Hypertherm, a New Hampshire based manufacturer, in Lebanon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Ohio this week. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte visits Hypertherm, a New Hampshire based manufacturer, in Lebanon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Ohio this week. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte visits Hypertherm, a New Hampshire based manufacturer, in Lebanon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Ohio this week. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte visits Hypertherm, a New Hampshire based manufacturer, in Lebanon on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Ayotte, who is running for re-election, has no plans to attend the Republican National Convention in Ohio this week. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Published: 7/20/2016 12:31:03 AM

According to Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a heavyweight in recent GOP politics, there’s nothing to see here.

No, her absence from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland has nothing to do with the nominee, Donald Trump, whose party is split like the Red Sea after Moses got done with it.

In short, Ayotte is here, in New Hampshire, not there, in Cleveland, because there’s a seat in the United States Senate with her name on it, and she wants to keep it that way.

Not, she claims, because she wouldn’t touch Trump with a 10-foot campaign sign.

“I’m here where the people of New Hampshire are and where the voters are, and I’m out visiting,” Ayotte told me Tuesday in the lobby of a Lebanon manufacturing plant. “Yesterday, I was at a ribbon cutting in Claremont and I did a roundtable on the opioid epidemic, and today, I’m here focusing on manufacturing work.”

She’s a politician running for office, which means she’s giving the same answers to the same questions, trying to avoid negativity while keeping her name in the news.

The news right now politically is the GOP convention, which might have been the perfect stage for Ayotte’s campaign, the spotlight with the brightest bulb.

Instead, she toured Hypertherm, a New Hampshire-based manufacturer of industrial cutting equipment. Ayotte was there to discuss her work supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM.

Hypertherm needs skilled workers, whom it will educate through its own training program. Ayotte needs votes in the November election against Gov. Maggie Hassan, in a race that could decide who controls the U.S. Senate.

Could she have decided to go to Hypertherm instead, bucking the trend for more publicity?

That’s why the press has trailed Ayotte this week. We want to know her feelings on Cleveland, on who’s there and who’s not there, on Trump himself, whom she’s said she supports but has never said she endorses.

“I’ve said many times what my position is, that I plan to vote for him,” Ayotte said. “I have areas of disagreement, which I’ve made clear and I will continue to do that, and whoever is in the corner office, I will work with them whenever it’s right for New Hampshire and the country on the challenges that face our country. But if I disagree with them, I’m going to call them out.”

There was a time when Ayotte was perceived as a Republican puppet, a fresh face who could serve as a mouthpiece to promote party politics, often on the Sunday morning news shows.

No more. Ayotte has her own voice, and it’s easy to conclude that Trump, whose controversial campaign has sent many top party members running for the hills, has provided the perfect chance with which to portray her independent thinking.

That, of course, is my take, that Ayotte isn’t at the convention because Trump has said things about Muslims and Mexicans and walls and women. After all, she attended the convention in Tampa, Fla., four years ago, and in fact spoke on behalf of Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee.

Ayotte, though, says she wasn’t going to Cleveland, no matter who ended up on top.

“I’ve got an election in November and I want to be out with the people of New Hampshire,” Ayotte said. “I’ve only been to one convention, so it’s not like I have a long history of going to conventions. I am focusing on doing work here in New Hampshire, and I think I’d be doing that no matter who the nominee was this year, because I have my own re-election.”

Still, Ayotte is news for the same reason that former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are. And John McCain and Romney and John Kasich and Jeb Bush.

They’re not in Cleveland.

Elsewhere, the Associated Press reported that Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts went so far as to say he won’t vote for Trump.

Also, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland joked, “there’s a convention?” when recently when asked if he’d attend.

Elsewhere, state Rep. Fred Doucette, a Salem Republican, told Monitor reporter Allie Morris in Cleveland that he was “bothered by it,” when asked to comment on Ayotte’s absence. “I would love to see Sen. Ayotte here . . . we should be united.”

Asked to comment on Doucette’s comment, Ayotte stuck to her script, saying, “I want to be here listening to the people of New Hampshire, talking with them about what is on their minds, and the New Hampshire voters are not in Ohio; they’re here, so that’s why I’m here.”

Out there, Ayotte’s national importance was obvious through the words of those who had nothing to do with New Hampshire.

At a delegation breakfast Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said, “God bless you for sending her to the U.S. Senate. I need her in the fight against terrorism.”

Added Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino, “She is greatly admired in the House and the Senate as well. We can keep her there.”

To get there, she stayed here. In fact, Ayotte is so focused on returning to Washington that she said watching the opening night of the convention was not a priority.

“I watched a portion of it,” she said. “I can’t say I watched the whole thing. I watched the end of Rudy Giuliani.”

Ayotte said the former New York City mayor was “quite energized. Certainly I have great respect for him as a mayor and how he handled New York City after Sept. 11.”

Ayotte said she heard most of Melania Trump’s speech. The nominee’s wife created the biggest buzz of the night when it was discovered that sections of her speech closely mirrored first lady Michelle Obama’s words during the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

Ayotte denounced plagiarism in general, but kept a safe distance from Monday’s firestorm, saying, “I can’t say I watched the whole speech because I was in and out. I’ve heard about reports of that, yes. I mean, honestly, I haven’t spent time preparing. I’ve been doing other work.

“You guys do that.”

When it came to Cleveland and Trump, I tried.

Nothing to see here, I was told.


Please support the Monitor's coverage

Help us fund local COVID-19 reporting in our community.




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy