Kelly Ayotte’s Future

by Robert Costa

According to Roll Call, the New Hampshire Republican is generating some buzz in the upper chamber:

Republicans predict that the fiscally conservative Ayotte could be a strong voice on financial matters, a mantle often carried in the chamber by [Sen. Judd] Gregg. And while it appears unlikely any leadership spots will be available early next year, Republican aides still maintained that McConnell and others will find high-profile opportunities for Ayotte.

“She will be a leading Republican woman voice in the Senate,” one GOP staffer said.

GOP presidential contenders are paying attention:

“Having a younger, dynamic female Senator in New Hampshire, I’m sure her name ID will go up as we go into that presidential cycle because there are going to be so many national names going into the state that will play into it as well,” one campaign operative said.

Indeed, nearly the entire Republican field of possible 2012 presidential contenders has come out to support Ayotte. In addition to Palin, former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) visited the Granite State twice for Ayotte. Sens. John Thune (S.D.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) held a fundraiser for her in New York this month, and she has been endorsed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R) regularly heaps praise on the candidate during weekly policy lunches with his Senate colleagues, and aides said her admirers include Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who attended a Washington, D.C., fundraiser hosted by Gregg last month for Ayotte and other New Hampshire candidates.

NRO profiled Ayotte before her primary. She faces Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes in November.

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