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January 20, 2008

GOP looks to take back N.H. Statehouse Economy, social issues could be key to 2008 election

Will the blue wave that flooded New Hampshire's legislative landscape with Democrats in 2006 recede in 2008, or remain as a natural feature in the Granite State?

Red-minded Republicans see the flood ebbing, while true blue Democrats see it continuing.

Republicans say they plan to regain control of the Legislature by putting up stronger candidates for office and pointing to Democratic fiscal failures.

Sprinkle in social issues like civil unions and parental notification, and so-called "nanny" issues like smoking bans and mandatory seat belts, and you have a recipe for a GOP victory in November, say state Republican Party Chairman Fergus Cullen and Vice Chairman Wayne MacDonald.

"Absolutely," says MacDonald, when asked if he thinks the GOP can turn the tide.

But Democrats say their counterparts' vision is fantasy. They vow to hold fast to the historic gains they made in 2006, when they took control of the state House and Senate - the first time since 1874 that they held a majority in these chambers and the governor's office.

State Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley points to this month's New Hampshire primary as proof 2006 wasn't an aberration. He said 44 percent of the state's registered voters were undeclared, yet 50,000 more of them cast ballots in the Democratic primary than the Republican primary.

Election could center on economy

Buckley agrees the economy will be key to the coming election, but not at the expense of the Democratic majority.

He says New Hampshire voters will lay the state's economic woes where they belong, at the feet of President Bush. The president's mismanaged economy and out-of-control war spending is fanning a national economic slowdown that has trickled down to the states, he says.

But MacDonald says the blame for the state's financial problems falls squarely on Gov. John Lynch and his supporters in the state House and Senate.

However, Republican and Democratic takes on state spending and the budget vary widely.

MacDonald said the 17.5 percent increase in the current biennial budget, passed in June, is 400 percent more than the 4 percent increase during the governor's first term, when Republicans made up the majority in the House.

"Ultimately, if New Hampshire's fiscal house is in disarray, then this is something the governor and his party will have to answer for, because they are in the majority," he said.

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