Kelly Ayotte: Partisan hack with an eye on 2016

Yesterday, Sen. Kelly Ayotte took center stage and grabbed the spotlight to denounce U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is rumored to be President Obama’s choice for Secretary of State. Following a meeting with Rice that left her “deeply troubled,” Ayotte declared she will block the nomination if it is brought forward before Rice answers additional questions.

The early reviews of Ayotte’s grandstanding performance are in — and they aren’t pretty.

Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce set the scene:

Rice, and acting CIA director Michael Morell, took time out of their busy schedules to go up to Capitol Hill and soothe the wounded fee-fees of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the inexplicable Kelly Ayotte, who has decided that the foreign-policy credentials she burnished keeping New Hampshire safe from General Burgoyne have made her a serious player, and who apparently has been adopted by Grumpypants and Huckleberry Closetcase because they can convince her that Susan Rice went to prom with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Newsweek/Daily Beast special correspondent Michael Tomasky called her threat to block Rice’s nomination “a new low in partisan warfare:”

So who is Kelly Ayotte anyway, to be threatening to place an unprecedented (in modern times) hold on a secretary of state nominee? …

I want to emphasize again what a new low in partisan warfare it would be to place a hold on a secretary of state nominee. If there’s one cabinet post that just has to be filled, it’s that one. State was the first cabinet agency created by Congress, meaning that the secretary of state is the oldest cabinet position, and to most people it’s the most venerated and important post of all of them (Treasury logs a few votes).

For one senator, especially a relatively junior one, to deny a reelected president his choice to head State would be rather amazing.

Closer to home, former Portsmouth Herald political editor Michael McCord complained that she’s acting like a “partisan hack” and says locals are starting to wonder about her “political sanity:”

Ayotte is making another name for herself and we have to wonder what kind of career advice she is getting. By becoming a visible member of Benghazi Blowhard 3, Ayotte has joined increasingly unhinged Sen. John McCain and increasingly disturbed (his words) Sen. Lindsey Graham in a political witchhunt with no witches. …

By publicly threatening to put a Senate ‘hold’ on a potential Rice nomination, Ayotte proved she is not ready for prime time and threatens to forge a stature as partisan political hack. She has jumped on a losing bandwagon and also offered further ammunition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the looming filibuster rules fight in the Senate.

So what is she up to? Boston Magazine’s Eric Randall and Pierce agree: she’s gearing up for a 2016 presidential run. Randall explained:

If you can believe it, the 2016 race might go a long way toward explaining Ayotte’s behavior. Rice is seen as fair game on the right, and efforts to make hay out of the Libya affair are met with approval from the national conservative media. Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, for instance, has already written in favor of Ayotte’s actions. You could cast this as an opportunity for Ayotte to get in with the base of her party nationally at a time when she doesn’t really have to answer for it to New Hampshire voters and on an issue that’s just not going to matter that much to most people in four years.

Pierce was more succinct, but no less certain. The “hapless Ayotte,” he wrote, “is clearly, and pathetically, looking past Rice all the way to the 2016 Iowa caucuses.”