UPDATE: In a, well-that-didn’t-take-very-long 180, Ayotte now says she “misspoke” and that she would hold neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton up as examples of role models.
Across the U.S., Republicans up for reelection in places that aren’t solidly red have been grappling with a major political liability in the form of babbling county fair pumpkin Donald Trump.
One of these at-risk Republicans is U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. On Monday, she squared off in her second debate against challenger Gov. Maggie Hassan. At one point, she was asked by a moderator whether Trump, who by the way has a 70% unfavorable rating among women in the state, is a role model for children. It took two attempts to get Ayotte to answer, with her second response taking a mere 11 seconds to implode her campaign and give her seat to Hassan:
Moderator: The president of the United States is obviously an aspirational figure — one who is a role model and an individual who stands for ideals on a world stage. Would you tell a child to aspire to be like Donald Trump?
Ayotte: I would tell a child to uh, absolutely aspire, uh, certainly to, to be their best and to be president and to seek to run for the presidency. Absolutely.
Moderator: Would you, again to the question, would you tell them to be like Donald Trump? Would you point to him as a role model?
Ayotte: I think that certainly there are many role models that we have and uh, I believe he can serve as president and so absolutely I would do that.
There’s no need to get into all of the reasons why this is ridiculous because those reasons are obvious. Besides, the Clinton campaign has already addressed the Trump-as-role-model prospect in this devastating ad:
Given the fact that Trump trails Hillary Clinton by seven to nine points in the latest poll (depending on whether “leaners” are included), and his staggeringly high unfavorables among women in the state, Ayotte is going down with Trump. Granted, it’s understandable she’d want to be a loyal foot soldier in the GOP army by supporting the nominee.
On the other hand, it’s Donald Trump, and only once in the last six presidential elections New Hampshire has gone Republican, in 2000. And it’s not going to be Trump who reverses that trend.
Furthermore, when Barack Obama won New Hampshire in 2008 and in 2012, Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and the governorship went a combined 0 for 7 in their races. The main reason was voter turnout, which is higher in presidential election years. To illustrate this, look no further than the results of the last four elections in New Hampshire’s first congressional district. Democrat Carol Shea-Porter and Republican Frank Guinta have traded the seat every two years since 2008. So either voter turnout helps Democrats, or the voters of the Granite State’s first are the most indecisive and dithering constituents on the planet.
Even in those losing years the GOP had nominated reasonably sane candidates for president in the form of John McCain and Mitt Romney.
This time, it’s Donald Trump.