Ayotte Wins in New Hampshire, GOP Sighs With Relief

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After remaining neck and neck with opponent Ovide Lamontagne while votes were counted this morning, New Hampshire 's Kelly Ayotte has eked out a win in the state's GOP primary for Senate. She has just been announced the winner by a margin of 1,667 votes, which is still narrow enough for Lamontagne to request a recount. He has until 5 p.m. today in order to do so.

Ayotte, a former state attorney general whose campaign has been backed by New Hampshire's Republican establishment -- including retiring Sen. Judd Gregg -- enjoyed a large lead for much of her campaign. In the last few months, however, Lamontagne surged 22 points (as measured by Public Policy Polling). A lawyer who enjoyed a last-minute surge to win the Republican primary for governor in 1996, Lamontagne was considered an underdog in this year's race. His fundraising trailed Ayotte's by millions. He was able, however, to focus on building his brand during the summer while Ayotte hammered self-funded businessman Bill Binnie, whom she believed to be her most serious competition.

Lamontagne also received an endorsement from the influential New Hampshire Union Leader, as well as a last-minute nod from Tea Party icon Sen. Jim DeMint. He was expected to generate high turnout thanks to the enthusiasm of his supporters.

While Lamontagne was considered a Tea Party insurgent, Ayotte had a contingent of Tea Party support herself. Several months ago, Sarah Palin dubbed Ayotte one of her prized "Mama Grizzlies." Compared to Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, however, Ayotte is about as establishment as politicians come. She's a more than viable candidate who consistently leads Rep. Paul Hodes, the Democratic nominee, in polls. The Rothenberg Political Report rates the New Hampshire race "Lean Republican."

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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