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Dave Solomon has been a reporter or editor for New England news organizations since 1977. He has served as executive editor of both the Portsmouth Herald and the Nashua Telegraph. He joined the reporting staff of the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2012.

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October 10. 2012 3:20PM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: McCain, Ayotte to headline Lamontagne fund-raiser

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 10, UPDATE: THE MAC IS BACK -- AGAIN. Arizona Sen. John McCain will return to New Hampshire a week from today, Oct. 18, to speak at a low-dollar fund-raiser for GOP candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who beat Lamontagne in the 2010 U.S. Senate primary.

The $25-a-person event at the Nashua Country Club has a long list of co-hosts, including state Sens. Gary Lambert and Jim Luther, Alderman Daniel Moriarty and area business leaders and activists such as Bob Bevis, Paul Clark, Kevin Halloran, Tracy Hatch, Jack and Brenda Tulley and Charles Withee.

McCain was in the state just three weeks ago campaigning for Mitt Romney.

Also, the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire will endorse Democrat Maggie Hassan in the governors race tomorrow in Manchester. The PFFNH endorsed Hassan's opponent, Jackie Cilley, in the Democratic primary.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 4 Granite Status follow.)

TUESDAY, OCT. 9, UPDATE: FOCUS ON SENIORS. President Barack Obama's New Hampshire campaign will focus on seniors in advance of the Thursday vice presidential debate with Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz making five stops in New Hampshire on Wednesday.

Wasserman-Schultz will campaign in Derry, Dover, Franklin, Manchester and Milford, launching the “New Hampshire Senior Security Tour,” alleging that GOP vice presidential nominee and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan joined with former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu in 2005 to push “to privatize Social Security.”

The campaign says Wasserman-Schultz will be “discussing with seniors how much is at stake in this election, whether it's the Romney-Ryan agenda that ends Medicare as we know it or Ryan's out of touch plan on Social Security.”

The campaign says Obama would not reduce benefits for current Social Security beneficiaries, “Romney's approach would require deep benefit cuts for future retirees due to his unwillingness to ask for an additional penny in revenues from the wealthiest Americans.”

The campaign noted that a Ryan-Sununu plan to create a private personal account option for Social Security won praise from former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

The Romney campaign fired back, “We look forward to welcoming Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to the Granite State for her latest tour of false, baseless attacks – this time social security edition.

"It's almost a certainty that she will not mention to seniors that she and President Obama have cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. Mitt Romney will ensure Americans can keep their insurance and protect Medicare by repealing and replacing ObamaCare with reforms that provide quality care at lower costs,” said Romney campaign spokesman Tommy Schultz.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 4 Granite Status follow.)

FRIDAY, OCT. 5, UPDATE: MORE BIG NUMBERS FOR ANNIE. Democrat Ann McLane Kuster raised $720,000 in the third quarter, a record for any quarter in her two campaigns for the 2nd District U.S. House seat.

The campaign will wait until the Oct. 15 filing deadline to disclose how much money it had on hand as of Sept. 30. In its pre-primary report, filed on Aug. 30, it reported having about $1.1 million on hand as of Aug. 22.

Since the beginning of the 2012 cycle, she's now raised more $2.5 million.

We understand that Kuster raised $265,000 of the $720,000 last week alone _ the biggest week ever for her.

A substantial portion of that amount was generated by an e-mail fund-raisingi solicitation her campaign issued after a staffer for Republican incumbent Charlie Bass videotaped her taking his camera away from him as he closely approached her at a recent event featuring Vice President Joe Biden.

Kuster could be heard on the tape saying “''F' him.” She later accused Bass and the GOP of “political bullying” and said she refused to be intimidated.

Kuster's campaign said the strong fund-raising numbers means she “will have the resources to get her message of changing Congress to voters across the district” through Election Day, Nov. 6.

She expressed gratitude “to the thousands of Granite Staters who have given their time and resources to this campaign. From day one, this has been a grassroots effort powered by ordinary people from all across New Hampshire who know that I will be a tireless advocate for hardworking middle class families.”

The campaign said Kuster received donations from 15,000 individuals between July 1 and Sept. 30, and more than 26,000 individual donors during the course of the campaign.

“During the third quarter, 82 percent of funds raised were from individuals, with an average contribution of $38,” the campaign said.

Bass has not yet made his quarterly fund-raising totals public. In his Aug. 30 pre-primary report, he had nearly $850,000 on hand.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 4 Granite Status follow.)

FRIDAY, OCT. 5. UPDATE: BOEHNER TO VISIT NH. U.S. House speaker John Boehner will visit New Hampshire on Monday to campaign for Mitt Romney and to appear at a private fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass.

The Romney campaign says Boehner will visit the Romney/Republican National Committee Derry campaign headquarters on West Broadway at 1:30 p.m.

He will meet volunteers and local residents.

U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta is expected to attend the Derry event, according to a spokesman for the RNC.

We've learned Boehner will also appear at a private fund-raiser for Bass.

Both Guinta and Bass are in tough reelection fights.

(Earlier Granite Status reports follow.)

THURSDAY, OCT. 4, UPDATE: McDONNELL FOR LAMONTAGNE. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will visit the state next Thursday to campaign for candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne.

McDonnell will be the featured guest at a $50-a-person fund-raiser at the Tuscan Kitchen restaurant in Salem on the evening of Oct. 11.

The event's co-hosts are state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Morse and former House speaker Donna Sytek, both of Salem, as well as 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Stephen, Tuscan Kitchen owner Joe Faro and Bruce Breton, who was the campaign manager for Lamontagne's Republican primary foe, Kevin Smith.

It's unclear at the moment if McDonnell will campaign at other events with Lamontagne.

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) and its Democratic counterpart, the DGA, have been targeting the New Hampshire governor's race with television advertising.

Several recent polls show the race is a toss-up, with Democratic candidate Maggie Hassan holding small leads, but within the polls' margins of error.

RGA vice chairman Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, stumped for Lamontagne in New Hampshire on Sept. 25.

Like Christie, McDonnell is viewed as a rising star in the national party, and, like Christie, he is viewed as a potential presidential candidate in 2016 if President Barack Obama wins a second term over Mitt Romney.

(The full Oct. 4 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, OCT. 4: THE “NO INCOME TAX” PAC. Kevin Smith will re-emerge from his loss in the GOP gubernatorial primary to take on a big task for conservatives.

We've learned he will turn his proven organizational skills to spearhead the first major effort to pass a constitutional amendment to ban a state income tax.

The “No Income Tax PAC” will fund-raise and then spend on media advertising and an aggressive grassroots campaign to get out the necessary two-thirds vote to pass the amendment on this November's ballot.

Three former governors are lending their collective cachet as honorary co-chairs — John H. Sununu, Steve Merrill and Craig Benson.

Smith said the PAC will accept unlimited contributions since it is not affiliated with a candidate. As the New Hampshire Sunday News and UnionLeader.com first reported, the attorney general has advised state officials that under the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, the state's $5,000-a-person limit on contributions no longer applies to PACs unaffiliated with candidates.

Some activists are already working on the amendment issue. A new conservative PAC called Citizens for Sensible Solutions, chaired by Brinck Slattery, has begun making yard signs.

Smith said that on the campaign trail he was surprised by how few voters were aware of the amendment question.

“Our goal here is to make sure voters are aware that when they go to the ballot box, not only do they have an opportunity to choose new elected officials, but that they also have an opportunity to make sure that the option of an income tax in New Hampshire is forever taken off the table.”

Smith said the issue “could especially impact the governor's race, where even though Maggie Hassan has pledged to veto an income tax, she has expressed her opposition against this ballot question.

“That position, coupled with her statements in the past of having supported an income tax, may cast some doubt in the minds of voters as to her true feelings on this issue,” Smith said.

So far, there has been no similar effort on the “No” side of Question 1. We suspect after this news, there soon will be.

BATTLEGROUND OR NOT? Accurate or not — an anomaly, or, as Gov. Sununu described it, “garbage” — the Monday presidential UNH poll for WMUR-TV portrays the state as no longer a battleground, but instead, one virtually in the pocket of Barack Obama.

The poll, showing Obama ahead of Mitt Romney 52 to 37 percent, caused bipartisan astonishment.

Other polls have the race much closer. An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll last week had Obama ahead by 7 points. A Rasmussen poll last week had Romney up by a few points and an American Research Group poll had Obama up by 5 percent.

Even a poll commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal organization, and completed by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, showed Obama's lead at 7.5 percent, half of that in the UNH poll. A GOP poll released Wednesday had the race tied here.

But the UNH poll is closely watched in Washington and Boston, where big GOP/Romney campaign decisions are made.

Tuesday morning, at least one key Romney supporter we know of was asked by a Washington reporter if what he had heard was true — that the RNC/Romney camp was about to “redirect resources” out of here to a more competitive state.

“That ain't going to happen,” said the Romney backer.

The backer noted the campaign has had at least two “brutal” weeks and the campaign has not yet advertised on Boston television, a key for Romney in the critical southern tier of New Hampshire.

On Tuesday, UNH issued its gubernatorial poll showing a virtual dead heat, with Maggie Hassan edging Ovide Lamontagne by 2 percent, a difference that has been consistent in a variety of recent polls, including the Democratic poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner we reported on last week.

“OBAMANS” FOR OVIDE? So, under the UNH poll's logic, a substantial number of Obama supporters must also support Lamontagne.

Poll director Andy Smith ran the numbers for us. He said 7.6 percent of those who picked Obama also picked Lamontagne, while only 3.5 percent of Romney supporters picked Hassan.

Put another way, Smith's numbers showed that 10.2 percent of Lamontagne supporters also back Obama, while only 3.2 percent of Hassan supporters also back Romney.

“If Ovide gets 8 percent of Obama voters, he wins,” said Smith.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of those undecided in the governor's race backed Obama and only 19 percent backed Romney, while only 11 percent of those undecided in the governor's race were also undecided in the presidential race.

As for Sununu calling his poll “a piece of garbage,” Smith didn't flinch.

“He has a job to do and that's spinning the news as best he can,” Smith said. “In 2010, Democrats were saying the same thing when our polls didn't favor their candidates.

“Only 80 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of independents say they will vote for Romney while 93 percent of Democrats say they will vote for Obama.”

Smith said that although the state has more registered Republicans than Democrats, those who identify themselves as Democrats, regardless of party registration, slightly outnumber self-identified Republicans “so a Republican candidate has to get all of the GOP vote as well as a majority of independents to win.

“Romney is not there now, but he has four weeks to make the case,” Smith said.

THE SPEAKER'S COMMITTEE. Bill O'Brien continues to build an organization aimed at reelecting him House Speaker.

So far on the GOP side, O'Brien is being challenged by Rep. Lee Quandt of Exeter, assuming, of course, the two win reelection on Nov. 6 and the Republicans retain the House majority.

If so, the real action will take place Nov. 15, when House Republicans caucus.

Democrats will choose their candidate Nov. 17, with a final vote, just a formality, on organization day, Dec. 5.

O'Brien today will announce 24 county chairmen for his reelection committee, in addition to five previously announced state chairs.

We can't list all 24 here, but they include Reps. Frank Tilton in Belknap, Karen Umberger in Carroll, John Hunt in Cheshire, John Tholl in Coos, Paul Ingbretson in Grafton, Frank Silva and Mark Warden in Hillsborough, Brandon Guida in Merrimack, Ken Weyler and Al Baldasaro in Rockingham, Warren Groen in Strafford and Beverly Rodeschin in Sullivan.

O'Brien says he is honored to have such a “diverse” group backing him.

NRCC POLL: GUINTA LEADS. The National Republican Congressional Committee commissioned a poll by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies that shows Rep. Frank Guinta leading Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, 51 to 43 percent. It also has Romney and Obama in a virtual tie, with Romney on top, 47 to 46 percent.

REPUBLICANS FOR LEE. Democrat Lee Nyquist announced Wednesday the support of 51 Republicans in his run for the District 9 state Senate seat against Republican former state Sen. Andy Sanborn.

The full list can be viewed at nyquistforsenate.com. It includes retired Bedford police chief David Bailey, former GOP legislator Susan Clay and businessman Tom Bisceglia, both of New Boston, and Daniel Sklar of Bedford.

Among Republican Nyquist supporters who live outside the district are longtime activist Claira Monier of Goffstown and attorney Kimon Zachos of Exeter.

Earlier this week, he picked up the endorsement of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire.

QUICK TAKES:

- Vice President Joe Biden's son, Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, will campaign for his father and President Obama today at firefighters events in Manchester and Exeter.

- Democrat Jeff Wooburn has been endorsed by veteran North Country newspaperman John Harrigan in his run for the state Senate in District 1. Harrigan compared Woodburn to longtime Republican Executive Councilor Ray Burton, saying he would do “the same kind of job that Ray Burton has done for so many years.”

- Democratic District 2 Executive Council candidate Colin Van Ostern, running his own race against Republican Michael Tierney, has set up a new “NH Executive Council PAC” to support candidates “focused on bringing balance back to the Executive Council,” in other words, fellow Democrats. Van Ostern says he is on track to raise up to $25,000 “to prevent a Tea Party majority on the council.” He has events scheduled to support candidates Debora Pignatelli of Nashua and Chris Pappas of Manchester.

- The John Soros (son of George Soros) SuperPAC “Friends of Democracy” plans to spend $200,000 to oppose Charlie Bass in U.S. House District 2 with direct mail, phone contact and online.

- Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS SuperPAC has a new $760,000 New Hampshire ad buy it says will criticize Obama on his promises versus what “actually happened.”

(John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. E-mail: jdistaso@unionleader.com. Twitter: @jdistaso.)


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