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John Gregg: Assisting Ayotte

For all the heat U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has gotten for her vote against expanded background checks for gun purchases, she is rallying support from Republican-leaning law enforcement officials from the Upper Valley.

Enfield Police Chief Richard Crate, retired Grantham Police Chief Russ Lary, and former Grafton County Deputy Sheriff Barbara Dutile all appeared in a television ad supporting the first- term lawmaker from the Iowa-based American Future Fund, which promotes “conservative and free-market ideals,” according to its website. In the ad, released earlier this month, Lary says Ayotte, a former state Attorney General, “has helped make our community safer.”

Crate takes aim at political ads attacking Ayotte for her vote against more gun control, saying “Those commercials from out of state groups attacking Kelly Ayotte are flat-out wrong” (though he doesn’t say how).

And Dutile, a Republican activist from Haverhill whose husband, Grafton County Sheriff Doug Dutile, is also a prominent North Country Republican, says, “Kelly Ayotte has worked closely with New Hampshire law enforcement to put violent criminals behind bars.”

Progressive groups have attacked the ads because two others who appear in them — Jayne Millerick of Bow and Judy Brown of Nashua — are each labeled as a “New Hampshire mom,” which may be true, but ignores the fact that they are also both Republican activists. Millerick is a political consultant and former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican party.

Dartmouth Poll

The pro-Ayotte ad came as she was clearly suffering at the polls and hearing from constituents on the background checks vote.

In fact, the 6th annual State of the State Poll by Dartmouth’s Rockefeller Center, also released last week, showed that Ayotte’s unfavorability rating rose from 24 percent to 31 percent, while her favorability rating went up fractionally to 36.7 percent. (The poll was based on surveys of 433 voters late last month.)

Survey Director Ron Shaiko, an associate director at the Rockefeller Center, said Ayotte is holding her base but losing ground with some swing voters.

“The Republicans who are for background checks are still supporting her — she didn’t really lose that base — but among undecideds and moderates and those that didn’t know a whole lot about her the last time around, she took a bit of a hit,” Shaiko said.

The poll also found former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, leading Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 37.1 percent to 32.3 percent.

The poll was taken before recent Congressional hearings raised more questions about the Obama administration’s public response to the deadly Benghazi attacks in Libya.

“I think that Christies has got some attraction up here. He would give her a good race,” Shaiko said.

Clinton also lead U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., 44.3 percent to 33.2 percent. The Dartmouth poll found faint interest in any other candidates. Most people didn’t name anyone else when asked for other names, and only U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., registered more than a blip, getting 5.3 percent support. Vice President Joe Biden was named by just 2.1 percent of respondents.

Briefly Noted

∎ State Rep. Linda Tanner, the first-term Sullivan County Democrat representing Cornish, Croydon, Grantham, Newport, Plainfield, Springfield, Sunapee and Unity in one of those newfangled floterial districts, has been out of action since April following spinal surgery. She hopes to be back in the Statehouse next week.

∎  Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Quechee, is a former sheriff’s deputy in Florida and apparently knows his way around some lethal weapons. Check out Campbell playing with nunchucks on this video from SevenDaysVt (and ignore the off-color commentary, possibly from a reporter): http://youtu.be/SXNrSuSetFg.

∎  The group of Real Talk Dartmouth students pressing for greater awareness about racial attitudes and sexual assaults at Dartmouth crashed a campus appearance last Friday by hedge fund manager Steve Mandel, the college board of trustees chairman, and got him to listen to some of their concerns. According to a Facebook post from the students, when they asked about getting rid of the Greek system, Mandel “facetiously asked students: ‘do you have a billion dollars to invest in Dartmouth?’ ” A college spokesman said a Dartmouth administrator who was with Mandel in the meeting with students said she didn’t hear him make the comment but also wasn’t present the entire time.