New Hampshire’s Ayotte could be a boost for Trump administration

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, dethroned by a razor-thin margin from her Congressional perch last week by challenger New Hampshire Gov. Maggie, spent the bulk of a long campaign trying to establish the right distance from firebrand Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

With Trump now headed to the White House, could Ayotte wind up going with him?

So far, she’s remained mum on the subject, but that hasn’t stopped pundits from playing the guessing game. Reports have bubbled up indicating that Trump may be considering the Nashua Republican for a cabinet post.

On Tuesday CBS News and others reported that Trump is considering Ayotte for a meaty position indeed — secretary of defense.

Ayotte, however, has hardly said a word in public since losing to Hassan last Tuesday. In fact, her lone interaction with the media was a brief interview last Friday with NH1 News following a Veterans Day ceremony. Asked if she would consider an offer from Trump to serve in his cabinet, Ayotte tip-toed around the question, saying she’s “just regrouping with my family.”

“And I will always find a way to serve our state and our country, even as a private citizen,” Ayotte added.

Subsequent attempts to reach Ayotte have been rebuffed by her campaign staff.

Ayotte’s relationship with Trump, on the outside at least, appears to be weak following her grueling campaign. Repeatedly hammered by Hassan over any perceived connection to the Manhattan real estate mogul, Ayotte made headlines when she said she’d write-in Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, in as president on her ballot instead. This past summer, Ayotte even skipped attending the Republican National Convention.

Yet with Trump now just months away from moving into the Oval Office, the talk is all about Trump potentially naming someone like Ayotte to a high position in order to show Americans that he not only doesn’t harbor any resentment to Republicans who were lukewarm to him during his campaign, but also that he is willing to install a woman to a powerful position after being accused repeatedly of misogyny.

Jennifer Rubin, author of the Washington Post’s Right Turn blog, claimed that an Ayotte nomination for secretary of defense “would be a masterstroke.”

“Her elevation would signal that Trump campaign cronies won’t be moving into the West Wing — or the Pentagon; Trump would get credit for selecting a mainstream, serious person,” Rubin theorized. “She would be the first female secretary of defense, a genuine gender breakthrough for the next administration.”

Others in the Granite State who were close to Trump throughout his campaign also are making the case that Trump’s consideration of Ayotte dispels the belief that he may still have an axe to grind with her.

Steve Zahn, who co-chaired Trump’s Milford, N.H., campaign, recently told The Cabinet, a weekly newspaper serving the Milford area, that the fact Trump is considering Ayotte shows he is keeping an “even-handed” approach.

“I urge everyone to quell their fears,” Zahn told the newspaper. “I think people will see a much different side of him.”

The National Review, the conservative opinion journal that opposed Trump throughout his campaign, is also touting an Ayotte appointment as a party-unifying move.

Author Shawn McCoy, publisher of the politically-focused New Hampshire Journal and a former campaign spokesman for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, wrote last week in his National Review column that while “there is no love lost” between Ayotte and Trump, the Granite State Republican “has the right experience and would breeze through the confirmation process.”

“While Trump’s base will see much to appreciate in Ayotte’s conservatism, she is a conservative with a smile and a brand of New Hampshire politeness that has been sorely lacking up to this point in Trump’s time on the political stage,” McCoy noted.