Fergus Cullen: Five stages of post-election grief and the other election winners

The New Hampshire Union Leader originally published this column on November 23, 2012:

If you are a Republican, you may still be working your way through the five stages of post-election grief.

— Denial: Maybe President Romney will invite me to a White House Christmas party!
— Anger: Carol Shea-Porter is a congresswoman again? Really, people?
— Bargaining: If only Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush had run, things would be different.
— Depression: So this is what it feels like to be a Cubs fan. I’m done with politics.
— Acceptance: I am hurt but not slain. I will lay me down and bleed a while and then rise up to fight again.

Congratulations to Lyndeborough, winner of this year’s state bellwether award. Lyndeborough’s results in the presidential election were nearly exactly equal to the statewide percentages (Obama 52.0, Romney 46.4), off by just three tenths of one percentage point. Other towns within one percentage point were Wilton, Barrington, Newport, Bradford and Goshen.

There are still some reliable Republican strongholds in New Hampshire. Romney’s top ten towns (casting at least 100 votes) were New Ipswich (66 percent), Alton, Windham, Pittsburg, Bedford, Atkinson, Hampton Falls, Auburn, Candia, and Hampstead.

President Obama’s best towns were Lyme (76.5 percent), Hanover, Roxbury, Hinsdale, Randolph, Harrisville, Marlborough, Keene, Lebanon, and Berlin.

Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, just missed the top ten despite going for the President, 68-30 percent. Who knew there were so many Republicans in Durham? Of the 6,841 ballots cast in Durham on election day, 3,026 (44 percent) came from same-day registrants.

It’s a secret ballot of course, but looks like the only voter in Green’s Grant cast a ballot for President Obama. Mitt Romney (no votes) finished third in Pinkham’s Grant, behind the President (three votes) and Gary Johnson (one).

GOP candidate recruiters for 2014 take note: Not since 1980 have state Republicans faced four major races (governor, U.S. Senate, and both congressional seats) in the same year without having at least one incumbent seeking reelection.

Beyond who won and who lost, a good measure of how strong down-ticket candidates are is comparing how well they do vs. the top of the ticket. At the state senate level, the top performing Republican candidates in contested races were state Sens. Bob Odell, Jeb Bradley, and Jeannie Forester. They ran 14, 11, and 8 points ahead of Mitt Romney in their districts.

Topping the list of Democrats who ran ahead of the President in their districts was, as usual, Manchester’s Lou D’Allesandro. He ran nine points ahead of the top of his ticket. Silver and bronze go to freshman Andrew Hosmer of Laconia (eight points), who had the good fortune to run against a scandal-plagued opponent, and Concord Sen. Sylvia Larsen (six points).

Honorable mentions go to Republicans Phyllis Woods of Dover and Joe Osgood of Claremont, and New Durham Democrat Richard Leonard. All of them ran ahead of the tops of their tickets but lost open seat races. Woods ran five points ahead of Romney, Osgood by four.

State senators who ran behind the tops of their tickets were Republicans Jim Luther of Hollis, who was defeated; Dave Boutin of Hooksett and Andy Sanborn of Bedford, who ended up in recounts; and Sharon Carson of Londonderry. Democratic freshmen David Pierce of Etna and David Waters of Dover trailed President Obama in their districts.

Whenever an election goes poorly, some activists want to fire the manager because it’s too late to fire the players. Criticism of state GOP chairman Wayne MacDonald is misdirected. “You don’t realize how easy this game is until you get up in that broadcast booth,” Mickey Mantle observed.

Should MacDonald step down, his successor would become the eighth state Republican chairman in nine years. New Hampshire Democrats have been more realistic and more patient, sticking with Ray Buckley after Democrats took a drubbing in 2010 just as they re-elected Kathy Sullivan after the 2002 GOP landslide. Both presided over comebacks two years later.

Stability and continuity at the helm would help the party. It may be time for the state GOP to start paying its chairman a salary to help open up the pool of people who could do the job to include professional operatives who need to earn a living.

Fergus Cullen, a freelance columnist, can be reached at fergus@ferguscullen.com.

Author: Fergus Cullen

Fergus Cullen is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party (2007-2008) and an editorial page columnist for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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