Kelly Ayotte, a former state attorney general, has won the Senate race in New Hampshire, beating Rep. Paul Hodes. But the real action in the Granite State is on the House side, where two districts offer a study in contrasts. In the first district, Dem Rep. Carol Shea-Porter has already lost to former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta. The anti-incumbent tide proved too strong to save Shea-Porter, a progressive and former anti-Iraq war activist who was swept into office in 2006.
On the other side of the state, in Hodes’ former district, the second, a different story may be unfolding. Ann “Annie” McLane Kuster, a progressive activist who I wrote about in September, is still neck-and-neck with former GOP congressman Charlie Bass, whom Hodes beat in 2006. Progressive groups poured money and energy into the primary in this race, helping Kuster beat Katrina Swett, a more centrist Dem. But even though Kuster and Shea-Porter have very similar politics, their fates may end up being different.
If Kuster does pull out a win, progressives like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s Adam Green will tell you it’s because she was a “bold progressive.” On a night when Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, the boldest of the bold, has already lost, that seems a bit off. Instead, I’d say this: differing results in the two New Hampshire races would show that voters don’t care too much about ideology. What they do care about is incumbency. And when the economy is in trouble, they want to throw the bums out—whoever those bums may be. When there’s no incumbent, it gets a lot more complicated. Of course, Kuster could very well lose, in which case none of this will matter. After all, she’s still from the incumbent party.
UPDATE, 11:50 p.m. EST: Kuster lost.