Goffstown, N.H. — Kelly Ayotte’s appearance at Saint Anselm College’s Institute of Politics on Tuesday, May 28th, was picketed by a dozen protesters. The Granite Staters took time out at the noontime lunch hour on a lovely spring day to register their discontent with Ayotte’s stands on background checks for gun purchasers and proposed budget cuts to balance the budget.
New Hampshire’s junior senator was appearing with Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen at a talk called “Beyond Baghdad and Bagram: Improving Contingency Contracting and Stability Operations.”
Inside the Institute, Ayotte and Bowen addressed an audience of 75 about her proposed “Never Contract With the Enemy bill.” The bill gives tools to military commanders and U.S. officials to curb military contractor corruption in Afghanistan and Iraq and prevent U.S. monies from winding up in the hands of hostile forces.
Three Goffstown police officers were inside the Institute to provide security. The talk went smoothly as no protesters apparently were part of the audience.
Outside the college campus, Keith Thompson, the co-chair of Brookline Democrats, was one of two protesters holding a large banner that portrayed Ayotte as two-faced.
The backlash among Granite Staters after Ayotte’s vote against a bipartisan bill that would have expanded background checks led to a sharp decline in her polling numbers. Her fellow Republican senator Marco Rubio, a politician with an eye on the White House in 2016 who will have to contest New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary and could use Ayotte’s support, has mobilized his Reclaim America PAC to help boost her sagging numbers.
The PAC’s ad tries to counter the fallout with a political ad claiming that Ayotte actually “voted to fix background checks” via her vote for an alternative, less restrictive gun control bill that was floated as an alternative to the stricter measure.
Thompson was not buying it, saying that the Manchin-Toomey bill that Ayotte voted against was the real deal. He warned that unless she took action to align herself with gun control forces, it could become an issue when she is up for re-election in 2016.
The bill was supported by Ayotte’s fellow Republican senator from Maine, Susan Collins, whom she once was compared to. It was once thought that Ayotte might emulate Collins and try to position herself as a moderate.
Ayotte was the sole senator from the Northeast who failed to support the bill, leading some protesters to label her NRAyotte, due to the National Rifle Association’s support for the Senator. The NRA has gone to bat for Ayotte since her unpopular vote.
The move towards tightening gun purchaser background checks was spurred by the Sandy Hook massacre that took place in nearby Connecticut.
Inside the Institute of Politics building, the talk moderator, noting the attendance of National Guard members, pointed out that the facility had once housed a National Guard unit. Ironically, the part of the building in which Ayotte, Bowen and the audience sat had been used for target practice.
Another irony is that Ayotte touted her anti-corruption bill as being necessary as it would generate foreign aid savings in a climate in which the deficit had broached the $17-trillion threshold. One protester held a sign saying, “Sen. Ayotte: Pick People Over Pentagon Waste.” She also held a sign proclaiming, NH Wants Background Checks.”
A survey taken before the Senate vote showed that 91% of New Hampshirites responding to the poll supported expanded background checks at gun shows, one of the loopholes the legislation would have fixed. Overall, three-quarters of respondents wanted expanded background checks for gun purchasers.
Half of the protesters picketing Ayotte’s appearance at Saint Anselm were there to voice their opposition to the “Chained Consumer Price Index” calculation that is being floated by budget cutters to keep a lid on hikes in the cost-of-living adjustments of Social Security recipients and federal retirees, including the military.