Binnie Adds Lamontagne to Line of Fire

Binnie Adds Lamontagne to Line of Fire

By Erin McPike - September 10, 2010

Former New Hampshire attorney general Kelly Ayotte is the undisputed front-runner in the state's open Senate race and the GOP primary, but Ovide Lamontagne, the GOP's 1996 gubernatorial nominee, has mounted a late surge, according to neutral GOP strategists in the state.

For months, Lamontagne struggled to gain traction as Ayotte was forced to fend off attacks from self-funding businessman Bill Binnie. Binnie's negative advertising campaign was directed entirely on the front-runner. But according to Republican sources in the state, Binnie's campaign has been robo-calling voters about both Ayotte and Lamontagne recently.

A Republican operative involved in some of the state's other races said he received a call from Binnie's campaign that mentioned Lamontagne this week in Manchester, and there were other such calls reported in Concord.

Binnie's personal wealth has afforded him the largest war chest in the race, and as a result, his campaign has conducted more tracking polls than any of his opponents' campaigns. For that reason, one GOP operative said, "The fact that he's hitting Ovide shows where Ovide is in that tracking data. Binnie knows something."

Another robo-call from Binnie's team reached a voter in the Seacoast area and provided the listener with information about Ayotte.

The location of the anti-Ayotte call is notable considering most of the candidates will be in Seacoast this weekend for the 11th annual Chili Fest hosted by the Seacoast Republican Women.

Ayotte is the only woman in the field and has been endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Susan B. Anthony List put some money behind Ayotte this week as well. Still, the newspapers in the state have offered their endorsements mostly to LaMontage and businessman Jim Bender, who's running fourth.

But for what has been a fractious primary, Thursday night's debate between the primary candidates was decidedly tame.

The first question in the debate hosted by WMUR-TV and the New Hampshire Union Leader dealt with the tone of the primary. Moderator Josh McElveen began, "The tone of this campaign, this race, has become an issue. A lot of people say this has become one of the nastiest primary races in recent memory in New Hampshire." He asked candidates where they draw the line, beginning with Binnie, who played the victim, asserting, "When I became a front-runner in August, we were attacked." He pointed the finger at the third-party groups, however, rather than other campaigns.

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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