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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson October 24, 2014

NRCC ad says Carol Shea-Porter is a partisan Democrat, Frank Guinta is "independent"

In New Hampshire’s highly competitive 1st Congressional District race, a Republican group is using a new ad to draw a stark contrast between Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and her GOP challenger, former Rep. Frank Guinta.

Here’s the narration of the ad, which was paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House Republicans’ election arm:

"Carol Shea-Porter votes with Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats 95 percent of the time. More spending, higher taxes. We need a change. As mayor, Frank Guinta brought a tax cap to Manchester and balanced four straight budgets. Frank will take on both parties. Cut spending, fight for a balanced budget, and restore Medicare to protect our seniors. Independent New Hampshire values, that’s Frank Guinta."

But is the comparison in partisan voting patterns really that stark? The answer is no.

Their records are easy to compare, because Shea-Porter and Guinta have traded off ownership of the seat over the past several election cycles. Shea-Porter was elected to the House in 2006 and 2008, lost to Guinta in 2010, then beat him in a rematch in 2012.

The ad footnotes Shea-Porter’s 95 percent partisan voting record to a Washington Post vote study. That shows that Shea-Porter did indeed vote with her party 95 percent of the time in the current Congress. A similar study by Congressional Quarterly shows Shea-Porter’s partisan unity score ranging between 95 percent and 98 percent each year during her congressional career.

So the ad has a point that Shea-Porter has loyally voted the party line in the House. The problem with the ad is in suggesting that Guinta has done the opposite. He hasn’t.

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The same Post tally shows that in Guinta’s term in Congress -- covering 2011 and 2012 -- he voted with his party 96 percent of the time. That’s barely distinguishable from how Shea Porter voted with her party. The CQ tally shows much the same: Guinta had a 97 percent partisan unity score in 2011 and 95 percent in 2012.

NRCC spokesman Ian Prior countered with two arguments. First, he said that if Guinta had served as Manchester mayor with a "my-party-is-100-percent-right attitude, he wouldn’t have been able to implement a tax cap (or) balance four straight city budgets." Second, he said that Shea-Porter’s votes that make up that 95 percent "are out of touch with her district and show that she puts her own liberal agenda ahead of her district."

Both points have merit but are far from bulletproof.

On Prior’s first point, city-level policymaking tends to be more technocratic and shaped less by the national political partisanship that drives Congress. In the exact comparison between the two candidates -- how they have voted in Congress -- they have both voted in virtual partisan lockstep.

On his second point, that Shea-Porter’s votes are out of step with the district, we’ll just note that the district voted for Obama for president not once but twice. It’s possible that voters have grown disgusted with his agenda since his 2012 reelection. We’ll soon find out: That’s what elections are for.

Our ruling

The NRCC ad says that Shea-Porter "votes with Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats 95 percent of the time," but Guinta "will take on both parties" and has "independent New Hampshire values."

That’s a pretty stark comparison -- yet by the most apples-to-apples measurement of how both candidates have voted in Congress, Guinta scored a 96 percent partisan unity with Republicans during his term in Congress, which is hardly evidence of a big contrast. We rate the claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

National Republican Congressional Committee, "Change" (ad), Oct. 24, 2014

Washington Post, vote study for Carol Shea-Porter, accessed Oct. 24, 2014

Washington Post, vote study for Frank Guinta, accessed Oct. 24, 2014

Congressional Quarterly, vote study for Carol Shea-Porter, accessed Oct. 24, 2014 (CQ subscribers only)

Congressional Quarterly, vote study for Frank Guinta, accessed Oct. 24, 2014 (CQ subscribers only)

Email interview with Ian Prior, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Oct. 24, 2014

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More by Louis Jacobson

NRCC ad says Carol Shea-Porter is a partisan Democrat, Frank Guinta is "independent"

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