As a New Hampshire voter, I’m accustomed to being made much of by presidential candidates every four years. Dozens of them criss-cross the state, meeting us in diners and living rooms and on Main Streets all over our Granite State. After the primary, we’re left in relative peace until the next go-‘round. Here we are, though, abuzz with post-primary chatter as one of our own is rumored to be vice-presidential material.

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is searching for a running mate. More precisely, his staff is searching. Journalists covering the campaign are guessing as best they can who might be on The List. One name that keeps coming up is U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire’s junior senator.

We’re flattered. Ayotte has reflected credit on our state ever since she was named N.H.’s Attorney General in 2004. She served under governors from both parties. She won her Senate seat after a breathtakingly close primary that could have brought out the worst in a lesser candidate. She has already distinguished herself in Washington. We’re proud of her.

And that’s why Mitt Romney can’t have her. Just tell the staff now: cross her off, wish her well, and let her finish the job to which her neighbors elected her.

Kelly Ayotte has so much poise, intelligence, and common sense that one could forget she’s in her first term in Washington. In fact, she’s not even a third of the way through her term. We desperately need her voice in the Senate, especially with a senior senator (Jeanne Shaheen) who is one of President Obama’s re-election campaign co-chairs. Ayotte has used her position to good effect for veteran’s issues and pro-life policies. (I’ve heard pro-life activists go so far as to call Ayotte a rock star, which is pretty darn close to the truth.)

Romney’s team will probably decide that geographic balance rules out Ayotte, since Romney is a Massachusetts man despite his links to other states. Fine. Keep looking.

Ayotte is not the only elected official in the “veepstakes” – an awkward but useful word. Media speculation includes names like Rubio, Christie, and Portman. It’s a wonderful thing when a political party has a rich store of talent upon which to draw for the national election. But when a presidential nominee chooses an incumbent senator or member of Congress or governor for a running mate, that leaves a big hole somewhere.

Mitt Romney needs to think hard about that. If he is elected president, he’ll need every supportive senator he can get. Picking one to be a running mate may not be the smartest way to use political capital.

All the recent attention has given Sen. Ayotte great opportunities, like Sunday morning talk shows, for talking about the political issues about which she cares the most. I hope she makes the best of these opportunities while they’re being offered. If the call comes down from Romney HQ, though, I hope she says “no”, graciously but firmly.

New Hampshire needs her in the Senate. Just as importantly, Mitt Romney needs her in the Senate.

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