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Dec 5, 2014 11:41 AM

Paul Steinhauser: U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte touts bipartisan efforts

NH1 Political Director - NH1.com

WASHINGTON D.C. - Sen. Kelly Ayotte says as she gears up for re-election in 2016, the most important thing for her to do right now is her job.

And the Granite State's Republican senator adds that "my top priorities are really focused on ensuring good paying jobs for people in New Hampshire."

In an interview with NH1 Thursday - right after Ayotte and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware took to the Senate floor to highlight their bipartisan bill to help cities and states build 21st Century manufacturing programs - Ayotte touted her bipartisan efforts. They also include a bill to review and eliminate duplicate federal government programs, and a measure to increase available money for infrastructure projects without using taxpayer funds.

Thanks to their big victories in last month's midterm elections, the GOP will control the Senate starting in January. And the Republicans increased their majority in the House of Representatives. Ayotte hopes that will lead to more progress on Capitol Hill.

"We need the Senate to function. That means members of both sides of the aisle working together. Let's look at what we agree on and ensure that we're focusing on the right issues for the American people. And I think that is really centered on the economy, on the fiscal state of the country, and of course always the security of our country. There are areas where we have common ground. We should moving those types of pieces of legislation and giving members on both sides of the aisle the opportunity to amend, debate. The American people should see very transparently what we are doing, and we should get results," Ayotte told NH1.

2016 Ayotte-Hassan showdown?

A former state attorney general, Ayotte trounced Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes by 23-percentage points in the 2010 election. But the 2010 midterms were a wave election for the GOP, and 2016 is a presidential election year, with a larger electorate that traditionally is more favorable to Democrats. And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be at the top of the Democratic ticket in two years.

A new poll by New England College indicates Ayotte leading Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan 48.1% to 42.5% among registered voters in a hypothetical 2016 Granite State Senate showdown. Hassan last month won re-election to a second term as governor, and as of now has not made any mention of her 2016 plans. But she hasn't ruled out a Senate bid, and there's plenty of speculation in New Hampshire of an Ayotte-Hassan showdown, which would be one of the premier Senate races of the 2016 cycle and would capture national attention.

Asked about the poll and a potential challenge from Hassan, Ayotte instead answered by saying when it comes to her re-election, right now the most important thing is doing a good job as senator.

"I'm focusing on doing the best job that I can for the people of the New Hampshire on the issues we just talked about, jobs, the economy, the debt and deficit, the fiscal state of the country, and the security of this country. And that's what I'm doing to continue to do. So as I run for re-election, there will be plenty of time for politics," Ayotte told NH1.

She added that "I know that people of New Hampshire want me to do my job and that's where I'm going to focus."

There's also speculation in GOP circles that Ayotte, seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, would be a strong pick as running mate for the next presidential nominee. Ayotte said "I always appreciate that people mention me in that context," but added that she has a great job right now - representing the people of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.


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