In 2006 and 2008 Democrats wiped out every New England House Republican and with the departure (from the Party and then the Senate) of Vermont’s Jim Jeffords, and John Sununu and Lincoln Chafee’s losses at the polls, GOP senators looked endangered as well. Pundits talked about how New England was turning permanently blue and how it was only a matter of time before Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg, would not be far behind.
Then came Scott Brown in Massachusetts. And the door has been cracked open for a new breed of New England Republicans and some of them look a lot like the old breed of New England Republicans. Charlie Bass, the former chairman of the Republican Main Street Partnership – the near-extinct moderate House Republicans – won back his seat tonight by a slim margin, 49% to Democrat Ann Kuster’s 46%. And Kelly Ayotte, who narrowly beat back a Tea Party primary challenge, won the Senate seat being vacated by Gregg. Proof the moderate New England Republican isn’t dead.
That said, Lincoln Chafee was back on the ballot this cycle, but this time running for governor of Rhode Island. And not as a Republican but and Independent. He won with 36% of the vote in a bitter three-way race, proving that if there isn’t space for a moderate in the Republican Party, there is support for a centrist Independent amongst Rhode Island voters.
But there’s also a new breed of New England Republican emerging. Former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, a staunch conservative on social and economic issues and a Tea Party darling, beat Dem incumbent Carol Shea Porter.
Still, Democrat Richard Blumenthal turned back Linda McMahon’s millions in the race to fill Chris Dodd’s Senate seat in Connecticut. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, won a surprise fourth turn in the face of massive GOP and outside spending to the tune of $1 million a week. Deval Patrick kept the Massachusetts’s gubernatorial mansion. And the Bay State kept all 10 of its House seats, even when a few were in danger. So, while the GOP made some obvious gains in New England this cycle, it’s clear it’s still an uphill battle for them in this blue corner compared to other parts of the country.