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GOP hoping for upset in NH governor's race

New Hampshire gubernatorial nominee John Stephen is getting rock-star treatment from national Republicans.

In the next week, he has campaign events and fundraisers with 2012 potential candidates Mitt Romney, Haley Barbour, and Tim Pawlenty.

On Saturday, Romney is keynoting the state party convention and doing a fundraiser for Stephen. On Monday, Barbour, who is the Republican Governors Association chairman, is heading to the Granite State, for a fundraiser for Stephen in the morning and then will tour a factory in Londonderry. On the 30th, Pawlenty will headline an event with Stephen as well.

The New Hampshire Republican Party is bullish about Stephen's chances against the popular Gov. John Lynch. There hasn't been any reliable polling in the state thus far (there was a robo-poll showing the race tight), but even Democratic Gov. John Lynch's campaign is acting like they're in a fight. Yesterday, the campaign went up with an attack ad, criticizing Stephen's record as state Health and Human Services commisioner. He held the post under Lynch and former Gov. Craig Benson.

“Stephen won’t tell you but he raised fees 162 times, left a trail of mismanagement we’re still paying for,” an announcer says in Lynch's ad. “John Stephen. If you can’t trust his numbers, how can you trust him?”

Lynch is trying for an unprecedented fourth term. (In New Hampshire, governors serve two-year terms.) That hasn't happened since Colonial times, the New Hampshire Republican Party notes.

"John Stephen is an excellent nominee," said Ryan Williams, spokesman for the New Hampshire Republican Party. "We have the best shot in years of taking back the corner office." He adds that voters, channeling much of the frustration highlighted by the Tea Party movement, are "rallying around [Stephen's] fiscally conservative message."

Stephen's is currently a consultant with the Lucas Group in Boston, where he advises state governments on achieving "efficiencies," Williams said. He's worked including Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on how to get savings, particularly in health care. Stephen's father is a former Democratic state Senator from Manchester.

In the Senate race... There's a debate tomorrow between Republican front-runner Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Paul Hodes. And how much have things possibly turned there? Hodes, who once touted the Dem party line, is now on TV calling himself a "fiscal conservative." (That's something Karl Rove's American Crossroads derided in this ad.)