New Hampshire has the potential to shape the future direction of the United States of America. No I’m not talking about the libertarian Free State Project, which can’t even achieve basic libertarian policy goals. I’m talking about the New Hampshire Senate election between incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte up against Democratic candidate Governor Maggie Hassan. Much of the focus this year has been on the presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but what has been completely overlooked is the United States Senate election. There are 34 Senate seats up for election in 2016, a third of the 100 Senate seats with each state having two with Senators being elected to 6 year terms.
The final make up of Senate is important because it is Senate which has to approve Supreme Court nominations. The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February this year ensured that a future President will have to put forth at least one nominee for the Senate to confirm. The current Republican controlled Senate has refused to hold confirmation hearings on current President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland stating that the appointment should be delayed until a new President is elected. The Supreme Court is currently evenly split in terms of ideological leanings with 4 liberal justices and 4 conservative justices. This means that the political leanings of the next appointment could shape how the Court interprets the United States Constitution.
The Republicans in the Senate earlier in the year were counting on a Republican victory in the presidential election. Of course this was before Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, now there are 14 Republican Senators who do not prefer a Republican President making a Supreme Court nominee. Many conservative commentators such as Laura Ingraham are making the case that even if you don’t think Trump is a good choice for President he should be supported simply because he will appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court. But for a Supreme Court Justice to be confirmed it requires both President’s approval and the Senate’s approval. So even if Hillary wins, a Republican controlled Senate could still filibuster any of her nominees, also vice versa a President Trump could have his nominees filibustered by a Democratic controlled Senate.
This is why the composition of the next Senate deserves proper scrutiny. Based on poll aggregator Nate’s Silver’s website FiveThirtyEight the Senate could be split 50-50 which would mean that the elected Vice President would cast a tiebreaker vote. However the Senate has a similar chance of being split 51-49 in the Republicans favor which would ensure they control the Senate regardless of who becomes Vice President. The Senate race which could tip the Senate in the Republicans favor is that in New Hampshire. If Republican Kelly Ayotte is re-elected this will give the Republicans a majority in the own right. Current polling and the FiveThirtyEight average has the race in virtual dead heat, it could go either way. New Hampshire is a swing state for both Presidential and Congressional contests.
Ayotte is not a very good Senator. This is reflected through her refusal to endorse Donald Trump for President. She previously stated she was going to vote for him but not endorse him, but after the Trump tapes were released has now stated she will not vote for him ‘’I have clearly stated where I stand on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I won’t be voting for either of them”.
She is firmly part of the Republican establishment and has spent most of her Senate tenure hanging around with John McCain and Lindsay Graham. She is a neoconservative favouring an interventionist US policy in the Middle East with regard to ISIS and Syria, in complete contrast with Trump’s policy. On economic issues she is better as she favours balanced budgets and supports the Second Amendment. However she is poor on key issues such as climate change favouring some government action and is also in favour of immigration reform and amnesty. Republicans could have done better in picking a proper conservative in a state where freedom and liberty are most valued. However she still holds the Republican Party line more often than not when it comes to key partisan issues.
However her opponent Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan also has a poor record. As Governor she has favoured higher spending and also limits on the Second Amendment, she has stated she supports Obamacare and is in favour of more education spending. It is fair to say she would be supportive of her fellow Democrats big government agenda if she was elected to the Senate.
A Supreme Court which tips the balance of the Supreme Court towards a liberal progressive interpretation of the Constitution would lead to severe restrictions on civil liberties in the United States. The court would rule in favour of restrictions on the First Amendment, ruling that laws against hate speech and limiting religious liberty for example would be acceptable. It would also rule in favour to restrict the Second Amendment as Democrats have long been frustrated by the existence of the right to bear arms. In fact any Constitutional provision that got in the way of the progressive agenda would be disregarded by a liberal Supreme Court majority. We should all be hoping despite her serious flaws that Kelly Ayotte is re-elected to either support conservatives justices appointments or to oppose liberal justice appointments. The Senate could very well be the more important battle this November.