New Hampshire Republicans loved John McCain in 2000 when he was widely viewed as anti-Washington, and they liked him enough in 2008 when he was anything but a favorite. But in the 2010 Senate primary, Republicans chose what was widely viewed as the candidate preferred by Beltway Republicans.
Interestingly, Kelly Ayotte's winning electoral map mirrored McCain's.
Ayotte, who edged Ovide Lamontagne 38 percent to 37, won in the western and northern parts of the state, just like McCain did in 2000 and 2008. And Tea Party-favorite Lamontagne was most popular in the counties where Mitt Romney did best.
So what do these results suggest? Maybe McCain really had become "establishment" by 2008, or maybe Ayotte is seen as the more measured candidate in tone. Maybe New Hampshire Republicans are just their own breed of fiercely independent people who defy explanation.
I think all of that could be true, but I also think that Romney clearly did better with the same Tea Party voters who want nothing to do with anything Washington.
** Hillsborough County was tied 35%-35% in 2008