Nov 5, 2014 5:33 PM

Paul Steinhauser: GOP national wave not so big in NH

CONCORD - It was a very big night for the Republican Party.

The GOP convincingly won back the U.S. Senate, increased their majority in the House of Representatives, and picked up a couple of governorships.

But the Republican tidal wave didn't make it to New Hampshire.

"Tonight the people of New Hampshire chose to put New Hampshire first," said Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, after declaring victory in her re-election effort.

Bucking the national trend, Shaheen edged out Republican challenger Scott Brown. And Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan also survived, narrowly defeated GOP gubernatorial nominee Walt Havenstein. In the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Annie Kuster easily won re-election over Republican challenger Marilinda Garcia, a state representative.

The lone GOP victor in the statewide and congressional races was former Rep. Frank Guinta, who won his old seat back by topping Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st district. Guinta ousted Shea-Porter from Congress in the 2010 election. She returned the favor in 2012, and now in their third straight congressional showdown, Guinta was victorious.

The Senate face-off was in the national spotlight. So how did Shaheen win while many other Democratic senators and Senate candidates went down to defeat?

Shaheen's a former three-term governor and her long ties to New Hampshire helped as she fended off Brown, a former state lawmaker and senator from Massachusetts.

"Senator Shaheen has a lot of close relationships with a lot of New Hampshire voters, a lot of New Hampshire communities. She's been around for a long time and I think it paid off for her last night," said Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Exit polls also explain why Shaheen won. The incumbent won female voters by 19 percentage points over Brown. She narrowly edge out Brown among voters 65-plus, who tend to break for Republicans. And Shaheen had a one point margin over Brown among independents.

The Democrats' turnout machine also made a big difference. Exit polls also indicate that Democrats made up 28% of the electorate in New Hampshire Tuesday, with Republicans at 27%. That's a swap from the 2010 midterms, when 30% of those who voted were Republicans and just 27% were Democrats.

Big down-ballot GOP victories

While Guinta was the only GOP challenger to win in the top four races, it was a different story in the battle for Concord. Republicans won back control of the Executive Council, increased their majority in the state Senate and won back the state House.

A leading New Hampshire GOP consultant says the national wave did have an impact in the Granite State.

"I actually think the Republican wave in the country had a tremendous effect on New Hampshire. If you look at the beginning of this year on one expected Scott Brown to do as well as he did against Jeanne Shaheen. No one expected Walt Havenstein to do as well as he did against Maggie Hassan. So those races were tremendously close at the top ticket when no one expected them to be. So it had a huge impact, not to mention all the way down the ballot," said Republican strategist Mike Dennehy.


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