- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Republican Rep. John E. Sununu defeated incumbent Sen. Robert C. Smith last night in the hotly contested New Hampshire Republican primary.
With 85 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Sununu had 63,711 votes, or 53 percent, while Mr. Smith had 53,466 votes, or 45 percent.
Mr. Smith lost last night after his strongholds in the northern part of the state did not give him enough votes to close the gap.
Mr. Sununu will face Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen in November.
Mr. Sununu said last night that his campaign against Mrs. Shaheen will focus on returning control of the Senate to the Republicans.
"This race now is about who will set the agenda - Tom Daschle or President Bush," Mr. Sununu said in an interview after declaring victory, referring to the Democratic Senate majority leader.
"Jeanne Shaheen's first vote in the Senate would be to support Tom Daschle and make Ted Kennedy chairman of the education committee," he said, referring to the Massachusetts Democrat.
"By helping the president take back the majority in the Senate, I'll make Sen. Judd Gregg chairman of the education committee and support the president's agenda," Mr. Sununu said of his fellow New Hampshire Republican.
The White House and the National Republican Senatorial Committee had watched the Sununu-Smith race closely — even playing a behind-the-scenes role in persuading Mr. Sununu to give up his House seat and make the Senate run.
From last year through last week, opinion polls showed that Mr. Sununu was the candidate more likely to defeat Mrs. Shaheen in the midterm elections.
If President Bush is to have a Republican-controlled Senate for the remaining two years of his first term, Republicans will have to have a net gain of at least one seat.
The Smith-Sununu battle had been agonizing for many Republicans because it pitted against each other two conservatives who agreed on many issues. Mr. Smith is a two-term senator who briefly quit the Republican Party in 1999 to launch a failed presidential bid as an independent candidate. Mr. Sununu is a soft-spoken conservative House member whom many New Hampshirites perceive as slightly more centrist than his rival.
Early in the day, with the sun shining and temperatures in the 90s in most of the state, voter turnout looked moderate to high. A bigger turnout was expected to help Mr. Sununu.
The New Hampshire secretary of state had predicted a turnout of 132,000 in the Republican primary, in which independents — but not Democrats — may vote. The previous high was 119,000 in 1992.
The campaign was dominated by two issues. One was whether Mr. Smith was an unreliable Republican for having briefly bolted his party. The other concerned accusations that Mr. Sununu's Palestinian-Arab heritage made him soft on terrorism.
Mr. Smith spent twice as much as Mr. Sununu. But for most of the campaign, Mr. Sununu held a commanding lead, which widened from 18 percentage points in October of last year to 29 points in April of this year, according to the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
But the Smith campaign aired a series of ads over the weekend criticizing Mr. Sununu for purportedly being soft on terrorism. Weekend tracking polls showed the race narrowing, with one internal Republican poll even putting Mr. Smith ahead by 2 percentage points.


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