Leading vs. following: Ayotte, Shaheen and the polls
Sen. Kelly Ayotte is not up for election for three more years. And yet somehow a poll out last week is supposed to spell doom for New Hampshire’s junior (though highest-profile) senator. The New England College poll showed that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen enjoys a 61 percent job approval rating, with ony 27 percent of respondents disapproving. Ayotte’s approval-disapproval figures, by contrast, were 48-43. The doomsayers banged their drums, shook their trinkets and pronounced Ayotte in trouble. Nonsense.
There is a simple and obvious reason why Shaheen enjoys such numbers. She does nothing. We were going to write that she “does nothing to anger anyone,” but the prepositional phrase seems unnecessary. She simply doesn’t do anything at all.
Sure, Shaheen will sign a letter here, tour a factory there, and co-sponsor an innocuous, non-controversial bill every now and then. In the U.S. Senate, that amounts to doing nothing. Shaheen is never a leader, never a risk taker. She is a wallflower who sometimes gets asked to dance, but then slinks back to the safety of the wall when the next song begins.
Ayotte? There is not a controversial issue she avoids. Taxes? Terrorist interrogations? Guns? Abortion? You name it, she’ll take a position on it. Often she is among the first senators to speak on major national issues, and she is only a freshman.
We did not see this coming. In the Republican Senate primary in 2010, Ayotte was careful. We went with the bolder Ovide Lamontagne. Ayotte has pleasantly surprised us. She is becoming a forceful leader in Washington. Leaders make enemies. Wallflowers don’t.