If you missed it over the holidays, President Joe Biden gave a surprise shout-out to Gov. Chris Sununu last week. And, without knowing it, he also laid out the political battle awaiting his fellow Democrats like Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas.
During a videoconference with the National Governors Association on the current COVID-19 surge, Biden said:
“Look, there is no federal solution. This gets solved at a state level. I’m looking at Governor Sununu on the board here. He talks about that a lot. And then it ultimately gets down to where the rubber meets the road, and that’s where the patient is in need of help or preventing the need for help.”
Biden’s concession that there’s “no federal solution” no doubt came as a surprise to the Democrats running the U.S. House and Senate who, just a few months ago, voted to spend yet another $1.9 trillion to help solve the COVID problem. Not to mention the bureaucrats in the Biden administration like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and the folks at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration who are pushing federal mandates on local businesses and workers.
It also runs counter to the entire approach of the Biden administration, which has been to tell state and local governments to, as Biden told Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, “get out of the way.” State and local governments cannot manage the COVID crisis and the feds should run the show.
Most Americans who’ve lived through the two years of the D.C. COVID show, however, are hoping it gets the hook. Current polling says that’s exactly what voters plan to do this November. And why shouldn’t they?
After nearly a year of Biden’s stewardship, America hit multiple records of reported daily infections last week, approaching half a million in a single day. Parents in some communities are looking at a return of remote-learning chaos while others face vaccine mandates on children as young as kindergarten. Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Biden. He foolishly ran for president on the promise, “I’m not going to shut down the economy. I’m going to shut down the virus.”
Close to 85 percent of American adults have been vaccinated and most of those have either gotten or plan to get the booster shot as well. And still, they’re being told to embrace a world of permanent masking and semi-isolation by the same federal health officials whose advice they embraced.
Then there’s the economy. Not only did dumping $1.9 trillion in new COVID “relief” spending fail to relieve America from the curse of COVID (or even buy the COVID tests desperate Americans are lining up for today), it also added to inflation. So did paying people not to work, which has driven up the cost of labor and added to the worker shortage plaguing businesses.
Two years of carnage, culminating in a Christmas season with millions of Americans stranded by COVID-grounded flights. And the short-term prognosis is things are likely to get worse. That’s the best D.C. can do?
Biden gave Sununu a shout-out because the Granite State governor has been so focused — some might say “repetitive” — in his messaging. He says the Feds have made a mess, wasted trillions of dollars, and need to trust state and local officials to manage the crisis — not federal mandates.
Democrats, on the other hand, have gone out of their way to embrace federal authority: Federal vaccine mandates, federal override of local election rules — even the abortion issue comes down to a federally imposed (through the Supreme Court) right to abortion vs. voters passing their own laws.
And while there isn’t a recent poll asking the “who do you trust more, the federal government or your local officials,” most Granite State campaign pros will tell you that being the “I’m with D.C!” candidate is rarely a winner.
Which is why it was so odd when Hassan announced just before Christmas she is abandoning her long-standing support for the filibuster to help D.C. Democrats pass what the Associated Press calls “federal legislation to supersede restrictive state [election] laws.”
How many Granite Stater want their local decisions “superseded” by Washington on, well, anything?
Hassan has made herself the perfect target for a Republican running a “New Hampshire vs. D.C.” campaign. From the massive federal spending that has helped fuel higher prices, to federal energy policy making it harder to produce the natural gas New Hampshire needs, to overtly embracing federal power over local workers’ health decisions, Hassan’s made the Washington Federals (which actually was a USFL team back in the ’80s) her home team.
Worse, at least two potential GOP challengers — state Sen. Chuck Morse and Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith — are natural warriors for the “local vs. federal” fight. It’s hard to imagine a more stark contrast than a U.S. senator debating a town manager over the local impacts of federal mandates on local businesses.
At some point during a debate next September, a Republican is going to list all the facts above and ask Hassan (and Reps. Kuster and Pappas, too) “why did you side with Washington, D.C. over New Hampshire?”
That’s a tough question in any election cycle. In 2022, it could be the whole ball game.