The nasty battle for the GOP Senate nomination in New Hampshire comes to a close Tuesday when voters head to the polls.
Former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte is the clear front-runner in the contest but it's not a comfortable spot in this caustic race.
Vowing to spur job creation, multimillionaire businessman Bill Binnie is spending millions of his own self-made fortune on his bid, slamming Ayotte in a series of brutal negative ads, claiming she's a political insider.
State GOP leaders stepped into the fray to call for civility, but Binnie declined to back down.
"It is tough. I make no bones about it but, I'm up for it. I built my own business. It hasn't always been easy and I understand that too but, no. I think what we've got to do is engage and add our voice and see if we can't make a difference in this political conversation," said Binnie.
While opponents challenge his record and accuse him of sending jobs to other countries as he has built a global company, Carlisle Capital Corporation, Binnie insists he's got the experience needed to help get the economy back on track.
"Right now we've got a broken economy and I think you send a business person to Washington to fix a broken economy. Not another lawyer," said Binnie, tossing a none too thinly veiled dig at Ayotte's record as a lawyer and prosecutor.
Ayotte's campaign isn't backing down from the fight, releasing ads that paint Binnie as a liberal launching desperate false attacks.
"I knew when I got into this race... I've never run for office before, that it would be a tough fight but I know it's going to be tough in Washington so I'm up for that to get things done for this country," said Ayotte.
Her campaign is gambling that voters won't be turned off by the vicious on-air war. Endorsed by Sarah Palin, Ayotte is working to shift attention to her retail politicking efforts and plans to reduce spending on Capitol Hill.
"We're a small business family. We have a landscaping and snowplowing business and the best thing we can do for our economy is really cut taxes on our small businesses, cut through the burdens, regulations that are passed down from Washington to make it easier for our small businesses to put people to work and that's going to be my focus in the US Senate," said Ayotte.
Meanwhile, Ovide Lamontagne, a Manchester attorney that bills himself as the contest's "true conservative" is gaining ground, scoring a big endorsement from the state's major newspaper, the Union Leader, and receiving Tea Party backing.
He's staying away from the negative battle raging between Ayotte and Binnie, releasing advertising that strikes a sunny note in the final stretch."I've been above the fray," said Lamontagne. "I think New Hampshire voters recognize that. They're going to go with the candidate that speaks to them about solving problems not creating internal turmoil."
The latest Public Policy Polling data, released September 12th, puts Lamontagne in second place, trailing Ayotte by 7, ahead of Binnie by 17. Last in fourth place is businessman Jim Bender who's also bank-rolling his bid for Senate and touting the campaign slogan "Jim for Jobs."
NH GOP SENATE PRIMARYPUBLIC POLICY POLLING RESULTSKELLY AYOTTE- 37%OVIDE LAMONTAGNE- 30%BILL BINNIE- 13%JIM BENDER- 12%margin of error of +/- 2.9%
Kelly Ayotte has seen a big drop from PPP's last poll of the New Hampshire Republican primary for Senate, when she led Lamontagne by 39 points. Now the voters will decide if Lamontagne has made up enough ground to score a win.
The GOP winner will face off against Democrat Paul Hodes in November. First elected to congress in 2006, his relatively brief career in Washington could come to a close if voter support surges to Republicans.
Recent polls show GOP front-runner Ayotte would beat Hodes in a match-up, perhaps, the first signs of a reversal of fortune for Democrats who swept Granite State elections in record numbers in 2008.
"This is the year where Republicans are going to do well across the board," said Smith. "We've seen this in the past. I think the one that's most closely related to this is between 1964 and 1966. Democrats won huge majorities in 1964. LBJ creams Barry Goldwater that election but by 1966 after the passage of a lot of the Great Society programs Democrats lost more than 40 seats in the House that year so these things tend to have a way of balancing each other out."
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