Another Bass Return?

In a race that has been quiet for many months, a reversal of course may be upon us. It appears that Republicans will soon end their dormancy against New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) as a pair of candidates may announce for the right to oppose her in the 2014 general election.

Former Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2) was first elected to the US House in the Republican landslide of 1994 and served without receiving a major challenge until 2006. That year, in what proved to be a Democratic landslide that swept the Republicans out of power in Washington, attorney Paul Hodes (D) scored a 53-46 percent win over the veteran GOP congressman. When Hodes launched a campaign for an open Senate seat in 2010, an effort doomed to fail in a crushing defeat, Bass returned to the political arena and re-claimed his 2nd District with a razor thin 48-47 percent win over attorney Ann McLane Kuster (D). Last year, Kuster sanctioned Rep. Bass back to former member status with a 50-45 percent victory in what again proved to be a Granite State Democratic sweep.

At the end of last week, Bass confirmed that he is “seriously considering” a return to elective politics by challenging Sen. Shaheen. Though the incumbent’s job approval ratings are very strong, 53:23 percent in the latest University of New Hampshire poll (late July), the New Hampshire electorate has swung wildly since 2006, alternating between giving both Democrats and Republicans sweeping wins from the top of the ticket to the bottom. Since 2006, inclusive, NH voters have defeated one senator (Shaheen over John E. Sununu in ’08) and five House incumbents (Bass and Jeb Bradley in ’06, Carol Shea-Porter in ’10, Bass and Frank Guinta in ’12) – in a state that possesses only two congressional districts. The state legislative chambers have changed party control several times during that six-year period, too.

Several weeks ago, former state Sen. Jim Rubens (R) opened a senatorial exploratory committee and reports favorable response toward his budding candidacy. Local political insiders predict that Rubens will announce his official campaign within the next two weeks. Should Bass actually decide to run, the former state legislator’s presence in the race means primary opposition – primary opposition that will undoubtedly be to his right before a conservative dominated Republican electorate.

Regardless of the impending 2014 turnout model, which conventional wisdom suggests should help Republicans based upon recent electoral trends, Sen. Shaheen is no easy out.

There has yet to be a poll released that has forecast the senator to be in trouble, but surveys of the race have been few and far between. In fact, the last ballot test releases were from Public Policy Polling back in April (April 19-21; 933 registered New Hampshire voters). Attention was being paid to the state because former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) was openly considering coming to New Hampshire for purposes of challenging Shaheen. When PPP published numbers showing the senator leading Brown 52-41 percent, little was again heard of the idea.

In order to have any chance of taking the Senate majority away from the Democrats, Republicans must push the envelope in as many states as possible. Though a Charlie Bass challenge to Sen. Shaheen would have to be considered a long shot, expect the party leaders to pull out all the stops to get him into the race. It is likely that a Bass candidacy would be the strongest the Republicans’ could field, despite the odds of achieving victory being very long.

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