The Washington Post today released their list of the 10 U.S. Senate seats most likely to flip in 2020, and New Hampshire Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen came in at number nine.
“We’ve known for a while that Sen. Shaheen is very vulnerable. She’s had weak poll numbers, and she’s done virtually nothing for the citizens of New Hampshire,” NHGOP state chairman Steve Stepanek told NHJournal. “Instead of voting for us, she votes ‘present’ on the Green New Deal. The people who weren’t ‘present’ were the citizens of New Hampshire who would have to live under that extremist policy.”
The Post’s analysis doesn’t claim that Shaheen faces the same electoral hazard as say, Alabama Democrat Doug Jones or Republican Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)–the two most vulnerable senators according to the paper. But the fact that Shaheen is on the list confirms the view of many Granite State political observers that the seat isn’t a lock for the Democrats.
And it’s not just the Post. The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics lists Shaheen’s seat as “Leans Democrat”– the lowest rating above “Toss-up.”
“New Hampshire is a strong pick-up opportunity because Shaheen is a career politician who has deserted Granite State values by pushing Medicare for All and higher taxes, while refusing to secure our borders,” NRSC spokesperson Nathan Brand said today.
NH Democratic state party chair Ray Buckley, however, isn’t worried.
“To outsiders, New Hampshire looks like a competitive state,” he told NHJournal. “That said, the voters know and like Senator Shaheen. Her record of delivering for the Granite State is remarkable and we look forward to Senator Shaheen continuing her work for all of New Hampshire,” Buckley said.
Longtime Democratic strategist Jim Demers agrees: “Jeanne Shaheen is in a very, very strong position.”
Perhaps. But two different polls released earlier this year showed Shaheen in a neck-and-neck race with Gov. Chris Sununu in a theoretical match-up. Sununu has announced he’s running for re-election and won’t be challenging the incumbent. But those polls suggest Granite State voters are open to a changing of the guard. At least two GOP competitors are stepping up.
“The reason Jeanne Shaheen is frequently listed as vulnerable is quite simple: ineffective representation,’ Brig. General Don Bolduc (Ret.), told NHJournal. Bolduc has already announced his 2020 candidacy. “After nearly 12 years in the Senate, her inability to lead and solve problems for the people of New Hampshire is glaring. This needs to change. In order to make this change, we must rally around a candidate with a track record of real leadership and who can defeat her political machine. It’s time to get this right. “
Former NH House Speaker Bill O’Brien is expected to enter the race later this month. Team O’Brien gave NHJournal this statement:
“It is true Jeanne Shaheen is in trouble. What is also true is that to change this seat New Hampshire Republicans must have a proven and tested candidate with a strong voice who will put people before Washington. Washington has a vested interest in keeping Jeanne Shaheen. It is time for New Hampshire to have its own voice.”
In the past, Shaheen supporters have argued that one of her fundamental strengths is her reputation for bipartisanship. However, as America’s politics have polarized, so has Sen. Shaheen. In an analysis of her record by the nonpartisan Lugar Center, Shaheen didn’t even make the top 50 in bipartisanship (she’s ranked 59) and she has a more extreme voting record than prominent liberals like California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
In the age of Trump, however, bipartisanship may be highly overrated. And given the president’s poor numbers in New Hampshire, simply being a Democrat may be enough to keep Shaheen in the Senate.