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Granite Status: An anti-Shaheen ad getting attention

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A TV AD from "Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire'' against U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for her support for the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) got state and national attention last week.


The news was that it was the first ad related to the 2014 U.S. Senate election. And it was the first ad critical of Shaheen aired in New Hampshire since her 2008 win.


No one has laid much of a glove on her since, or even tried. It's too early to say if the new ad will begin to soften her up for next year's campaign, but that's clearly the goal.


It certainly caught the attention of the Shaheen camp and state Democrats. Her campaign launched a fund-raising email to counter the ad by this "secretive right-wing group."


The state party asked who was funding the ad, knowing full well that a 501(c)(4) advocacy group, which Citizens is, need not disclose its donors.


The top consultant for the group is Mike Biundo of Manchester, former national campaign manager for Rick Santorum's presidential campaign. That relationship and Santorum's Twitter post about the ad sparked speculation that he, or his donors, funded the $110,000, two-week buy.


Biundo wasn't saying. He said Democrat speculation is "trying to distract from the salient point we're making," that the ACA is going to hurt New Hampshire families.


Biundo was once a top aide to then-Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta. But there is no indication that the ad was a stalking horse for a Senate campaign by former U.S. Rep. Guinta.


Biundo said this ad (more are planned) is to fill a vacuum because no one else has been taking on Shaheen.


In his opinion, the 2014 election will be "a huge referendum on 'Obamacare,'" which is beginning to take effect over the coming months.


That could be a strong issue for Republicans.


In the most recent UNH Survey Center poll, released in mid-April, support for Affordable Health Care act declined to 34 percent from 41 percent in February, while opposition increased to 49 percent.


At the same time, however, Shaheen remains extremely popular. The same UNH poll (completed for WMUR television) showed her with a 59 percent approval rating, with only 23 percent unfavorable.


Couple that with Shaheen's fund-raising prowess and her opponents have a steep climb. But it's early.


NHDP spokesman Harrell Kirstein said Biundo's was a phony attack.


"Only the Republicans want to go back and re-fight the health care battle. Everybody else knows health care reform is expanding coverage and reducing costs here and across the country," Kirstein said.


The group's ad and the attention it received from state and national political media, coupled with debates at the State House on Medicaid expansion and aligning small market insurance rules with the ACA, have boosted the overall issue's profile.


Expect the ramp-up to continue.


Meanwhile, Republican former state Sen. Jim Rubens said over the weekend that he continues to explore a run for the seat.


He said that based on telephone calls he's made for the past two weeks, "there is an intense amount of interest by active Republicans about winning this election. And there is no violent rejection of the approach that I'm taking to fiscal matters," which is a revenue neutral exchange of a carbon tax for decreases in individual and corporate taxes.


"In fact there is universal agreement about my focus on the debt, deficit, entitlement reform and health care costs," Rubens said.

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