Tag Archives: New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte should be ashamed

New Hampshire’s junior senator, like the entire Republican caucus, is refusing to give any consideration whatsoever to anyone President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court. And, like the entire Republican caucus, she should be ashamed of herself for abdicating her sworn duty — and for, as usual, undermining the legitimacy of our (twice) duly-elected president.

But Ayotte has an additional, very specific, reason to be ashamed. Her entire political career has its roots in a very unusual act of nonpartisanship. If it wasn’t for a pair of decisions by a Democrat, there would be no Senator Kelly Ayotte.

First, a bit of essential background. New Hampshire’s Attorney General is not elected. It is an appointed position with a four-year term. The governor chooses an AG with the approval of the five-member Executive Council (itself a wacky feature of Granite State governance, go Wikipedia it if you’re curious).

Back in 2004, then-AG Peter Heed resigned. The governor at the time was Craig Benson, a Republican so feckless that he was actually defeated in his first bid for re-election. Yup, served one term and got kicked to the curb. But he was governor at the time, and he nominated a young, ambitious attorney named Kelly Ayotte to replace Heed. And she got the job.

After Benson’s ejection, Ayotte’s partial term ran its course. Democratic Governor John Lynch chose to nominate her for a full term.

And, at the end of that full term, he nominated her once again.

And she ducked out of that term early on, to run for senate in 2010, thus reneging on a promise to Lynch that she would serve her full term as AG.

It is a certainty that, if not for the generosity of Democrat John Lynch, there’s no way Kelly Ayotte would be a U.S. Senator today.

Is she returning the favor? No. She is joining her colleagues in essentially spitting in the President’s face.

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Bully for Bernie

Nice showing for our 74-year-old “junior” Senator in Iowa. And boy, does he have more stamina than most people ten years younger. I loved the footage of him addressing a crowd of hundreds at FIVE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING as he arrived in New Hampshire.

Anyway, my take on Iowa. I begin with my customary mea culpa when it comes to Bernie; I’m one of those who has underestimated him all along. And somehow, he’s doing quite well in spite of me. However, allow me to be consistent: I still think Hillary Clinton is the favorite.

On the Democratic side, the results were a victory for both candidates. Clinton got to claim the victory; Sanders did better than expected, and continues to ride a seemingly unending wave of momentum. He’s likely to win New Hampshire; after that, the going gets tougher. Bernie  still has a very long way to go.

He has a momentum advantage. He’s also got a surprising asset for an insurgent: a healthy campaign fund and the closest thing to a perpetual-motion fundraising machine. Clinton won’t be able to outspend him into irrelevance.

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Woolf’s Duplicitous Delicatessen

Our Motto: “Where There’s Always a Thumb on the Scale”

It’s been a while since I chronicled the dishonest commentary of Art Woolf, a.k.a. Vermont’s Loudest Economist. Every Thursday, he blesses us with a few hundred words of pro-business bumpf salted with carefully chosen figures designed to conceal the flaws in his reasoning.

Heck, I could easily write a riposte every week, but that gets old after a while.

However, the two most recent entries in the Woolf oeuvre merit scrutiny, because they touch on significant public policy debates: taxes and health care reform.

His November 5 missive revisits one of his favorite themes: Vermont’s taxes are too damn high. Well, he doesn’t say so exactly; but he presents an array of misleading statistics to bolster that popular conservative argument.

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Sorrell versus the record, part 1: the MTBE deal

Earlier this week, former Mark Johnson Show host Mark Johnson produced his first podcast for his new employer, VTDigger. It was a 50-plus-minute interview with Attorney General Bill Sorrell, headlined by Our Eternal General’s stout denials of any wrongdoing. (It was also an excellent example of Johnson’s interviewing skills. His departure from WDEV was a big loss for our public discourse, and I look forward to his Digger podcasts.) Sorrell is, of course, the subject of an independent investigation for campaign finance-related activities.

SorrellCriminalThe interview reveals Sorrell in all his self-centered, fumblemouthed glory. He is, as always, the innocent target of politically motivated attack and quasi-journalistic hit pieces. But it’s worth taking a close look at how he explains himself, and comparing that to what’s on the record so far. (The independent investigator, Tom Little, is famously tight-lipped about his work, so we have no clue what he may have discovered.)

I’m breaking this up into parts because otherwise, it’d be horrifically long. This installment, Sorrell’s explanation of the MTBE lawsuit, is itself pretty damn long. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, the bottom line is: Sorrell’s interpretations and recollections are self-serving, and often at odds with the facts. In my judgment, it’s unclear whether Sorrell violated the law; but his behavior and his insidery relationships with key players are disturbing at the very least. There is an appearance of wrongdoing, whether there was actual wrongdoing or not.

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Tweeting past the graveyard

Gee, what’s on my Twitter feed this morning? Ah, a fresh bit of puffery from VTGOP Chair David Sunderland!

Fact-checking time!

RealClearPolitics’ average of the top national polls: John Kasich in 10th place with a measly 2.5%.

If that’s a surge, he must have started from negative 10.

Now, if Sunderland is talking New Hampshire specifically, he’s got a bit more ground to stand on. In RCP’s average of NH polls, Kasich is in third place with 10.3%. And he has legitimately “surged” in the Granite State; two months ago, he was down in bottom-feeder territory.

That’s a creditable figure. And a testament to the relatively clear-thinking nature of the NH Republican electorate, which is more interested in frugal, responsible government (and less interested in fact-free, over-the-top rhetoric) than Republicans nationwide.

In short, Sunderland got it right if he meant a very localized surge. But nationally? Kasich’s going nowhere.

The evidence of things not seen

Several Republican presidential candidates, previously characterized as “top-tier,” have been withering away under the reflected glare of the Donald Trump campaign, or whatever it is. One of those unfortunates is Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky. Previously, he looked like someone who could bridge the chasm between the GOP’s nuttier precincts and the mainstream. Now, he looks like someone who’s fallen into that chasm, his poll numbers barely above Rick Perry/Bobby Jindal territory. (RealClearPolitics’s averaging of recent polls: Paul in 10th place with 2.6%. He’s been on a steady downward trajectory since late June, when he briefly topped the field at 13.8%.)

But have no fear, Aqua Buddha fans: State Rep. Paul Dame is here to tell you differently.

It’s no secret that the Republican Party is in need of revitalization. … And while a number of candidates talk a good game about building a “big tent” party, it has been largely empty rhetoric. Everyone agrees that we need to do more – but I only see one candidate for president who is actually DOING it. And that is Rand Paul.

Dame, one of three Vermont lawmakers to endorse Rand Paul, paints an astoundingly rosy picture of his candidate heroically venturing into Democratic* strongholds and converting the unenlightened (read: liberals) to his Libertarian-Lite banner. He is “winning support from minorities” and “young people” and “many independents and even some Democrats.” His recent appearance at a VTGOP fundraiser attracted “nearly 100 people who attended their first-ever Republican fundraiser.” Dame praises Paul’s “boldness” for daring to visit Vermont, as though he had to smash through a Liberal Police checkpoint to get in.

*Well, Dame uses the pejorative “Democrat” formulation, as do most Republicans. It’s “Democratic,” boys.

Reading Dame’s piece, you can see Rand Paul as the contemporary embodiment of the Ayn Rand hero: the granite-jawed Braveheart inspiring the benighted commonfolk with his steely boldness and plain-spoken wisdom.

Yeah, but then you look at those pesky polls and face the fact: Rand Paul is not leading a movement. He is tanking, big-time.

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A high-profile gig for Julia Barnes

The departing Executive Director of the Vermont Democratic Party, Julia Barnes, has landed a new job. She’ll be the New Hampshire state director for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

It’s arguably one of the most important positions in the Sanders effort; the polls show him a strong second behind Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire*, and a strong showing in New Hampshire will be crucial for Bernie’s campaign going forward into the meat of the primary season.

*Three recent NH polls show Clinton with roughly a 10-point lead. The fourth gives her a 31-point edge; that’d seem to be an outlier.

The problem is, Bernie has already attracted his base; he’ll be hard pressed to build on it. Or to avoid the early-achiever trap that’s derailed so many candidates. Barnes has a heck of a job to do; if Bernie runs strong in New Hampshire, she will have accomplished something quite significant.

She e-mailed me some thoughts on taking the job:

Sen. Sanders is talking about the things that I think are most important to the presidential discussion, namely having an honest conversation about the dissolution of the middle class and the income inequality that makes it hard for many Americans to get ahead. Not even get ahead, but stay afloat. There is an organic desire to see that happen and that is why Sen. Sanders is resonating with so many voters. I am excited to help see that message reach voters in New Hampshire and build the organization needed to help him win the primary there. Given the circus that is happening on the Republican side, it is going to be really rewarding to engage in a substantial conversation with voters through good grassroots organizing techniques.

I also asked her about the fact that most of the top Vermont Democrats — the people she’s worked with and for at the VDP — have gone with Hillary Clinton.

At the end of the day, elected officials are also individual voters and they, like the voters across the country, are entitled to make their decision. Sen. Sanders has been a longtime friend of Vermont Democrats and I know many of them will be supporting his bid.

Good luck, Julia. I think Bernie made a good hire.