Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte won’t be playing kingmaker in New Hampshire.
The New Hampshire senator — and highest-elected Republican official in the state — told Politico she will not endorse a candidate before the February 9 primary.
“I’m going to stay out of it,’’ Ayotte said in an interview Tuesday, adding that she thinks the candidates understand her neutrality.
“I will tell you I’m in regular communication with them because they’re always reaching out to me,’’ she said.
It’s not unusual for top party officials to hold out on endorsements. Both of Iowa’s Republican senators refrained from officially endorsing before Monday’s caucuses, though they did appear at a few candidate events.
That said, Ayotte did endorse Mitt Romney ahead of New Hampshire’s 2012 Republican presidential primary.
She hasn’t been completely hands-off this year. In a statement Monday, Ayotte pressured the super PAC of Ohio Gov. John Kasich to pull an ad that criticized Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for voting against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
Ayotte is facing a tough re-election contest this year against New Hampshire’s Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan. Additionally, some conservative Republican leaders in the state have floated a possible primary challenge against Ayotte from the right.
In the absence of her endorsement, another prominent “New Hampshire’’ Republican has looked to fill the void. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is reportedly set to endorse Donald Trump at a campaign rally Monday night in Milford. Trump comes to New Hampshire looking to regain momentum after a disappointing second-place finish in Iowa.
Ayotte told Politico she has no plans to appear with any of the candidates.