In politics, when it rains, it pours. And New Hampshire Democrats are getting hit by a noreaster of no-good political news.
President Joe Biden is polling around 40 percent. If that does not change, there won’t be a “red wave” in November, there will be a “red tsunami.” President Barack Obama was polling 10 points better in 2010 and the GOP still picked up 63 seats.
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan could n0t raise enough money in the last quarter to cover her bills, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee and other national GOP organizations far outraised their Democratic counterparts. And after spending $12 million so far, Hassan is still polling at 43 percent against Gen. Don Bolduc — a guy who has publicly claimed Gov. Chris Sununu is an ally of the Communist Chinese.
Speaking of Sununu…
Less than a year out of the 2022 election, New Hampshire Democrats do not have a credible candidate for governor. Will state Sen. Tom Sherman (D-Rye) run? If so, he is keeping it a secret from the general public. At this point in the 2020 cycle, then-state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes was clearly in the race.
Then again, Feltes also went on to lose by 30 points, so maybe Sherman is on to something.
As bad as that news is for Granite State Democrats, in the New Hampshire House it’s even worse.
The tragic story is Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) who is widely admired on both sides of the aisle. Last spring, he revealed he was being treated for stage four cancer. Today, multiple sources tell NHJournal his health is in a very precarious position.
However unkind it may be to discuss and however unfair the situation, Cushing’s insistence on remaining minority leader is hurting his party. Multiple sources in both the progressive and traditional wings of the caucus tell NHJournal Cushing is a leader in name only. But they also are not willing to push him to step aside.
“Renny is a beloved icon and moving for a leadership change right now would be cruel. Cruel!” one progressive House Democrat told NHJournal.
In theory, the leadership role should fall to the assistant minority leader, Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua). Only one problem: He also has health issues and has turned into a COVID recluse. Plus, House Democrats insiders concede, Cote doesn’t have the leadership or strategic skills needed for the job.
As a result, nobody is in charge. The proof is in the open warfare between progressives and traditional Democrats in the caucus. Two progressives have left the party. Another quit the House entirely in disgust. And a fourth House Democrat, who also had a fulltime job with the state party, slipped out of state in the dark of night.
All in just the past two months.
In November, Rep. Maria Perez made repeated antisemitic comments on social media, calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. It took three weeks for the House leadership to respond, as BIPOC progressives fought with their fellow Democrats over whether Perez should be punished at all.
Rep. Nicole Klein Knight’s meltdown, according to multiple sources, is a continuation of that fight.
“The ‘activists’ who publicized this situation involving Nicole were doing some score settling,” Rep. Casey Conley posted on social media. “There is absolutely no reason this couldn’t be handled quietly and internally. That is what adults do.
“Further twisting the knife by sending the letter to every representative makes it clear there were some axes to grind,” he added.
Why is a House member making those accusations in public? Who is going to stop him? Democrats could send Casey to the woodshed, but there is nobody there.
So, progressives are throwing down on their own.
“To my BIPOC friends and community members: this is what NH Democrats think of us when we stand up against bigotry within our own party,” progressive activist Jordan Thompson tweeted. “Not only are Rep. Conley’s comments disparaging and disrespectful, they are also false. We tried to address this issue privately to no avail.”
Meanwhile, House Republicans are getting out the popcorn and passing legislation.
The local media are obsessed with the “Trump Kook GOP” storyline, covering dead-end legislation from a handful of fringe Republicans. New Hampshire voters are not worried about the state seceding from the Union, or Donald Trump being awarded New Hampshire’s 2020 electoral votes in 2023.
Those distractions leave the serious-minded Republicans free to defend — and maybe even expand — Education Freedom Accounts and kill minimum-wage-hike legislation and pass new congressional district maps with relatively little scrutiny.
All in a House where the GOP majority is just 20 votes out of 400. A handful of Republican n0-shows and vote flips and Democrats could cause some serious trouble. Except the “no-shows” are among the Democrats.
As a result, Democrats are losing winnable votes. For example, one Democratic lobbyist pointed out, when the state Senate overrode Sununu’s veto of SB 38 by a 19-5 margin, the House vote failed by one vote — 228 to 115. “If either the minority leader or his top lieutenant had just shown up for the opening session, Sununu’s veto goes down. Instead, there was no leadership in the caucus on the bill, and four Democrats left the reservation. Unbelievable.”
Can New Hampshire Democrats turn things around? In politics, the answer is always supposed to be “anything can happen,” but in this case, the answer is “no.” As the chaos continues, and the prospects for November continue to decline, Democrats’ problems are going to continue to pile up.
Think about it this way: Joe Biden is never going to get a day younger.
The one potential bright spot for Democrats is that Republicans have never met an election cycle they couldn’t screw up. It is possible the GOP could nominate a bunch of anti-vaccination bozos and spend the entire campaign designing the flag of the Independent Republic of New Hampshire.
But in a year like 2022, even that might not be enough to save the New Hampshire Democratic Party.