Hope You Enjoyed Your Week in the Spotlight, Kelly Ayotte

kelly ayotteKelly Ayotte introduces Mitt Romney at a campaign event in Derry, New Hampshire, back in January. Most Americans say: Kelly who? (Photo by WEBN-TV on Flickr.)

New Hampshire’s junior Senator Kelly Ayotte received a blast of the national limelight this week as speculators and political prognosticators ran amok, wondering aloud whether Mitt Romney might sweep Ayotte off her feet and eventually name her the winner of The Great American Veepstakes.

NBC’s political guru Chuck Todd mentioned her as a “dark horse” on Meet the Press last Sunday, for example, and the National Journal is calling her Romney’s “sleeper” choice. Joe Battenfeld of the Herald went so far as to call Ayotte the “perfect mate” for Romney.

But all of this seems silly — political bluster aimed at filling the veins of political junkies during this transition period between the GOP primaries and the Big Event. Let me put it simply: Ayotte will not be on the ticket.

Don’t get me wrong; on the surface she brings a number of pluses. She’s from a swing state, is articulate and polished, unlikely to thrust her foot deep into her own mouth, and she would diversify the GOP ticket desperate for every female voter it can woo. At some point, she will probably be a player on the national stage. But not now.

“I don’t think there’s much chance that Romney will pick her,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told me.

For one thing, New Hampshire might be a swing state, but with only four electoral votes, it is hardly a key swing state. And since Romney calls New Hampshire’s neighbor, Massachusetts, his home — or at least one of his many homes — it doesn’t make a ton of sense to use his VP choice to sew up just those four electoral votes.

“Everyone says, ‘But look at Gore and Clinton,’” Sabato says. “But that was a very different situation. That was two states in the center of the country surrounded by swing states. This is not the same thing. There are no other swing states in the area, and it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

When you look at some of the voting groups Romney would like to attract, Hispanics and women jump out. There is little indication Ayotte would help draw Hispanic voters, so that leaves women. But history tells us that just because she’s a woman doesn’t mean other women will necessarily vote for her team.

In 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro joined Democrat presidential nominee Walter Mondale, 44 percent of women voted for them versus 56 percent of women voting for Ronald Reagan and Geroge H.W. Bush. The next time a woman was chosen as a V.P candidate was Sarah Palin in 2008, and the margin was even wider, as 56 percent of women voted for Obama versus 43 percent for John McCain and Palin.

“Those are your two cases,” says Sabato, “and it made no difference.”

Ayotte may be poised for bigger things at some point, but for right now, I hope she enjoyed her few moments of national fame. The blazing spotlight is about to grow dim.


Chris Vogel
Chris Vogel Chris Vogel, Editor in Chief at Boston Magazine cvogel@bostonmagazine.com