Shea-Porter, a second-term Congresswoman, won her election on a fluke. Moderate Republicans have recently carried the area, which has a slightly more conservative bent than surrounding northeastern districts. But New Englanders don’t like war. And Shea-Porter ran on an almost exclusively anti-war platform. Now the economy and health care are paramount, and there is a solidly anti-incumbent flavor to the elections.
John Randall, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), is cautiously optimistic.
“I don't know if I'd [look for] a Scott Brown level upset, but the district is trending correctly,” said Randall, referencing Shea-Porter’s dismal polling. “Health care…is just highly unpopular.”
Another enormous liability for Shea-Porter is the way she treated her constituents during the town hall frenzy. As one primary candidate in the race, Frank Guinta points out, it took Shea-Porter two weeks announce her town hall meeting after she came home from recess last August, and that announcement was only made after she received significant political pressure. During the event, one of her staffers held an egg timer – documented on camera – to make sure her constituents were only allowed to air their grievances in appropriate amounts of time.
“Nationally, all the members of Congress were coming home, people were giving their opinions rather sternly of health care. And Carol didn't announce that she was going to hold a town hall meeting,” said Guinta, a candidate who had been serving as the mayor of Manchester at the time. So, using his platform as Mayor, Guinta announced that he was going to hold a town hall – at which point Shea-Porter decided it would be a good time for her to hold one, too.
Robert Bestani, a Stanford professor with a history in the financial industry and another GOP primary candidate, says Shea-Porter just doesn’t fit the district.
“She's really a one-trick pony. She ran against the war in 2006 and managed to get into office on that basis,” said Bestani. “She has no qualifications for the position, and it shows, I think.”
As of February, Guinta was polling 43-33 with Shea-Porter, and Bestani was polling 36-33 against her. Another candidate, Rich Ashooh, was also polling 36-33.
“It’s been my sense that she's been oblivious to the concerns of voters in this district,” said Bestani. “That's translating itself into lack of popularity.”
The fourth major player in the GOP primary, Sean Mahoney, is a communications executive and was polling 32-19 against Shea-Porter.