Hassan will need to show NH more

Depending on who was doing the talking, Gov. Maggie Hassan’s State of the State speech last week was characterized either as a kickoff to her U.S. Senate campaign against Sen. Kelly Ayotte or a summation of her bipartisan accomplishments during her time in office.

State Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn called the speech "short on substance and long on rhetoric."

Democrats, not surprisingly, had a different take. "The governor presented a clear vision for how we can build on that progress to enhance economic opportunity and quality of life for all Granite Staters," said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn.

There was, realistically no way it wasn’t going to be seen as a political speech. She is, after all, in politics and once the dust clears from the New Hampshire presidential primary, the Ayotte-Hassan Senate race will dominate the state’s political landscape.

The one new initiative the governor laid out was a program called Gateway to Work, which is aimed at connecting low-income residents and young people with expanded job training and apprenticeship opportunities. It sounds like a good program, but the governor should have put a price tag on it, even though it will be paid for by redirecting money the state already has.

Mostly, though, Hassan stuck to her usual talking points: the opioid crisis, the need to continue with expanded Medicaid, education, bringing commuter rail to the state and raising the minimum wage.

The part of the speech that rang the most hollow was Hassan’s claim that she was part of a bipartisan budget solution in the last legislative session, as if she forgot that she vetoed the budget.

Republican’s haven’t forgotten.

"The governor vetoed our sensible budget, but bowed to political pressure after a three month stalemate that blocked increased funding to essential programs services," said House Majority Leader Richard Hinch of Merrimack.

To her credit, one of the things Hassan didn’t do in her speech was take potshots at Republicans, which was a smart move given that she is trying to position herself as a more bipartisan candidate than Ayotte.

The State of the State speech was not the place for Hassan to lay out her vision for the country as a prelude for her Senate race, and she didn’t. But at some point she is going to have to move beyond the script that paints her as a cookie-cutter Democrat. She’s going to have to give New Hampshire voters – especially the 40 percent of the electorate who don’t belong to either major party – a reason to vote for her.

Talking points won’t be enough. In fact, they may be a problem.

After she sat down for an interview with the political website Politico last month, she was criticized for offering "political bromides" and little else.

We’ve noticed that about Hassan, too, but if she wants to win the Senate, she’ll have to do better and go further. The time for her to do that was not last week, but it will soon be upon us.