Setting The Stage For An Intense GOP Primary In New Hampshire

Sean Mahoney, a Republican national committeeman and publisher, said today that he won't enter the primary for retiring Sen. Judd Gregg's open seat. Mahoney's departure statement left open the possibility that he might endorse one of the two remaining Republicans -- Manchester lawyer Ovide LaMontagne or Attorney General Kelly Ayotte.  "As I considered this race, my number one priority was to make sure that there was a candidate in the race who supported my conservative principles," Mahoney said, according to the Union Leader. "After listening to the announced candidates at various forums and meetings I am confident that we'll have a true conservative leading the charge to keep the seat in Republican hands."  The Union Leader reports, however, that Mahoney will NOT endorse.  

Democrats hope that conservative Republicans unite to force Ayotte, seen as the likely GOP nominee and the favorite of the state party establishment, further to the right.  Democrat Paul Hodes is running unopposed for his party's nomination. Ayotte is pro-life, pro-gun rights, against same-sex marriage; she endorsed Doug Hoffman in New York's 23rd Congressional district; she opposes cap-and-trade, the public option and the Democratic health care reform in general. When asked if she's a Jim DeMint Republican or a Susan Collins Republican (and clearly there's a right answer if you're looking to get elected in New Hampshire), Ayotte won't even answer, which is one suggestion that conservative Republicans are dominating the primary process in New Hampshire.  Plastics magnate Bill Binnie is also considering a run for the GOP nomination.