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Skeptical About NH’s Election Integrity? NHSOS Scanlan Has A Solution.

During the First Congressional District debate on the Jack Heath radio show Tuesday, Republican Karoline Leavitt flatly said she did not trust the results of the 2020 elections, nationally or here in New Hampshire.

“I continue to be the only candidate in this race to say the 2020 election was absolutely stolen and there is no way Joe Biden legitimately won 81 million votes. That is a preposterous claim.”

And, Leavitt later added, the reason the state has Republican control at the state level but an entirely Democratic federal delegation “is because of our poor election integrity laws at the state level. We allow non-citizens of our state to vote in our elections.”

Most Granite Staters don’t agree with Leavitt’s claims regarding the 2020 election — 84 percent told the UNH Survey Center poll in July they are confident in the election process — but New Hampshire’s Secretary of State David Scanlan says there is a simple way for people skeptical about New Hampshire’s voting system to lay their concerns to rest.

“I would suggest people who are expressing doubts volunteer as poll workers,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan and his elections team are in the midst of a massive training effort to get 1,200 to 1,500 New Hampshire elections officials ready for the coming voting season. The primary vote is set for Sept. 13, and the midterms follow in November.

Asked by NH Journal about political candidates currently expressing doubt about the outcome of the 2020 election, Scanlan said the whole voting process is transparent and easy for anyone to observe.

“Any voter or citizen of New Hampshire who has questions about the election process should spend some time observing that process. It’s transparent from start to finish,” Scanlan said. “It’s all public activity done in the open with many checks and balances done at the polling place.”

There has never been any credible evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire, but that has not stopped political candidates like Leavitt, Tim Baxter, and Don Bolduc from questioning the results of the 2020 election.

Baxter’s argument rests on the conspiracy theories laid out in the movie “2,000 Mules.” In fact, none of the First District GOP candidates were willing to say that former President Donald Trump lost the election during the NHJournal debate on August 4.

Bolduc, the frontrunner in the GOP race to take on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, even signed an open letter this year questioning the 2020 election results.

“The FBI and Supreme Court must act swiftly when election irregularities are surfaced and not ignore them as was done in 2020,” the letter reads in part.

The 2020 election did see some glitches in the Granite State. For example, the months-long controversy in Bedford surrounding the 190 ballots that were never counted resulted in the secretary of state deciding the town will have a state-appointed official to oversee the September primary.

“As a result of the concerns and shortcomings described in this and our prior correspondences, the Attorney General makes a finding that the November 2020 General Election returns from Bedford had significant deficiencies,” Myles Matteson of the state Attorney General’s Election Law Unit wrote to Bedford town officials. “The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Attorney General, will be appointing an election monitor for the next election, the September 13, 2022, primary election.”

Scanlan wants to avoid any similar problems in the coming elections. The training for election officials will help the local moderators, ballot clerks, and selectmen understand election laws and get up to speed on any changes to the law from the last election.

The 2020 election saw polling stations swamped with absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scanlan said there is unlikely to be a repeat of that issue this year. The training sessions are not mandatory, Scanlan said, but strongly encouraged.

Candidates Debate Abortion, 2020 Election in NH-01 GOP Primary Debate

The five GOP candidates running for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas this fall took to the stage Thursday night, sparring over election integrity, abortion, and foreign policy. 

The crowded conservative field of Karoline Leavitt, Matt Mowers, Gail Huff Brown, Tim Baxter, and Russell Prescott largely agree on the issues.  But that didn’t stop Huff Brown from going on the attack first.

In answering a question on abortion considering the U. S. Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs case, which gives the authority back to states, Huff Brown targeted Leavitt and accused her of not being pro-life. Leavitt has just answered that she supports New Hampshire’s 24-week ban on abortion.

(CREDIT: Alan Glassman)

“You can’t be pro-life and support the law in New Hampshire,” Huff Brown said.

“I am pro-life, and I do support the law in New Hampshire,” Leavitt responded, before turning the tables. “So, what are you?”

Huff Brown declined to answer.

Huff Brown also went after Mowers over voting twice during the 2016 presidential primaries, once in New Hampshire and again later in New Jersey.

“We need to talk about election integrity. We have one person up here who voted twice. That’s not election integrity,” she said.

Mowers hit back, saying an investigation by New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella cleared him of any wrongdoing and accused Huff Brown of using Democratic talking points.

“Gail, that’s just silly stuff. I know you’re new to this state, maybe you didn’t know the rules,” Mowers said.

The candidates again disagreed on aid to Ukraine, with Mowers and Prescott coming out in full favor of helping Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion, though both said the money needs to be accounted for.

“We should absolutely support Ukraine, but we need to verify the money is actually going to the crisis,” Prescott said.

Leavitt and Baxter opposed sending money to Ukraine. Huff Brown was unclear on her position.

Former President Donald Trump loomed large in the debate, as both Mowers and Leavitt worked for his administration. Mowers touted his position in the State Department while Leavitt made frequent mention of her job in the White House Press Office. Huff Brown also claimed to have worked for Trump. Her husband, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, served as Trump’s ambassador to New Zealand.

None of the candidates were willing to say outright that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Baxter cited the debunked conspiracy theory movie “2,000 Mules” and said all the individual state elections need to be audited. The other candidates said there needs to be a review or audit of the election process. It was Leavitt who went furthest, saying Biden was not elected in 2020.

“The 2020 election was stolen and there is no way Joe Biden legitimately won 81 million votes,” she said.

The audience at the event hall at the Saint Anselm Institute for Politics was full of campaign aides, as well as supporters, friends, and family of the candidates. Linda Chard came out to support Baxter, saying he has the youth, energy, and ideals needed to win.

“One hundred percent because of his proven, conservative voting record,” Chard said.

Chard would not commit to a second choice if Baxter does not win the primary, saying she is not impressed with the other candidates.

State Sen. Bill Gannon (R-Sandown) came out to support Mowers, who he sees as the best conservative to win.

“Matt is young, energetic, has great ideas, and has experience in Washington,” Gannon said.

Gannon was impressed with the overall slate on the debate stage, saying he could support Huff Brown or Prescott as second choices, but he was disappointed in their answer on the 2020 election.

“I was unhappy that no one would say Joe Biden got the most votes,” Gannon said.

Playing into election conspiracy theories will only hurt Republicans in the fall, Gannon said. While he voted for Trump, Gannon said the former president did lose the election and it is now time for the GOP to move on.

Scott Brown said all the candidates put in a good effort Thursday night.

“They all did really well, everyone up there is qualified,” Brown said.

He took exception, however, to Mowers’ jab at his wife, implying that she recently moved to New Hampshire.

“She’s been a property owner and taxpayer in New Hampshire for 30 years, almost as long as he’s been alive. He’s been here what? Four months?”

Scott Brown said Prescott is his second choice.

“He’s just a good guy,” he said.

The debate can be streamed on NH Journal’s Facebook page 

 

‘Shame On You!’ Rep. Perez Takes to House Floor to Call Out Hassan, Pappas Over Border Policy

In an emotional speech from the floor of the New Hampshire House, Rep. Maria Perez accused members of the state’s federal delegation of treating voters of color like “tokens” while supporting Trump-era immigration policies.

“I will say to the congressional delegation who’s been criticizing the previous administration about going to the border and speaking negatively about immigrants — What happened to you? You tokenized us to talk negatively about the previous administration, but now you’re utilizing immigrants to win some votes. Shame on you!” Perez said.

Perez echoed complaints from the New Hampshire Democratic Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus which is critical of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas’ right turn on immigration.

 

“All of us feel like we’re tokens,” said Shideko Terai, a member of the New Hampshire AAPI Caucus. “This is not okay. You can’t use us and abuse us.”

According to multiple sources, leaders in the state Democratic Party have been pressuring Black and Brown activists to remain silent as Pappas and Hassan push for Trump-era immigration policies like building more of the border wall and continued enforcement of Title 42 authority against would-be migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I feel very disgraceful to calling myself a Democrat because a lot of Democrats have been calling people [of color] onto the carpet saying just to say ‘do not go out in public, do not talk about it,'” Perez said Thursday. “Shame on you! Shame on you for trying to silence our voices.”

Terai says she received the same message from Granite State Democratic Party leaders. “I was told, ‘We have to be really careful. We need Sen. Hassan’s fundraising,’” Terai said.

Last week, the New Hampshire Democratic Party Latino Caucus resigned from the party en masse over Hassan and Pappas’s new policies. Now, Perez said, it is a non-partisan organization promoting issues important to her community.

“I had to take a hard decision for my caucus to leave the NHDP,” Perez said. “We left the executive committee of the Democratic Party because my caucus doesn’t feel welcomed by the Democratic Party. I believe our community has been tokenized, and it’s time for us to win the respect.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan in front of the Trump-era wall at the U.S.-Mexico border in April 2022.

Hassan’s reversal on immigration, from repeatedly voting against Trump’s border wall to calling for more of it to be completed, has caught the attention of national media. According to Politico, Hassan is one of a handful of embattled Senate Democrats whose prospects for re-election are in trouble and are trying to distance themselves from Biden and his policy.

“On social media, where they shy away from praise of the president and instead focus on their efforts to prod the White House to action, it’s hard to tell they’ve voted in line with Biden no less than 96 percent of the time,” Politico reported Thursday. And, they add “Democratic operatives” say Hassan is making the right move politically by supporting tougher immigration policies, “even if it’s at the expense of alienating some progressives.”

Some of those progressives at the national level are speaking out.

“Attn: Sen. Hassan. We need you in the Senate, but going after GOP anti-immigration voters and introducing a bill to keep Ukrainian and LGBTQ migrants out will lose you more voters than you gain,” tweeted Douglas Rivlin, communications director with the progressive immigration group America’s Voice.

In a later tweet, he added: “Sen. Hassan [is] defining Dems as the party in support of Stephen Miller’s approach to excluding immigrants, and refugees.”

Stephen Miller was President Donald Trump’s lead immigration policy advisor.

New Hampshire’s lead immigrant’s rights advocate, Eva Castillo, is outraged by Hassan’s pro-wall politics.

“It was a slap in the face for us Latino immigrants,” said Castillo, director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees. “She could have talked about anything other than the stupid wall.

“That’s not an issue for a New Hampshire incumbent senator to be running on. I’m sick and tired of people playing politics with immigration, on both sides. And it’s especially annoying when it’s the Democrats that are supposed to be friendlier to immigrants,” Castillo said.

Hassan apparently needs the help. A new UNH Survey Center poll found Hassan is in a statistical tie with her potential GOP rivals retired Gen. Don Bolduc, state Sen. Chuck Morse, and former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith, despite the fact they have very little name ID.

Also problematic for Hassan: Just 35 percent of voters have a favorable view of the incumbent senator, while 51 percent view her unfavorably.

 

‘Trump Is F’ing Crazy!’: Sununu Steals Show at D.C. Insider’s Dinner

It may have been a Washington event for D.C. insiders, but it was New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu who stole the show at the return of the annual Gridiron Club dinner Saturday night.

And his biggest laughs came at the expense of former President Donald Trump.

The white-tie and snark affair is part of the fabric of elite D.C. culture, with politicians, lobbyists, and journalists gathering for a night of schmoozing. Always a bipartisan affair, Sununu was representing the GOP while Rep. Jamie Raskin did the comedy work for the Democrats.

According to Politico’s reporter on the scene, Sununu went straight after Trump:

“You know, he’s probably going to be the next president,” Sununu said of Trump, musing about his “experience,” “passion,” “sense of integrity” and the “rationale” he brought to his tweets. As the room quieted to see where he was going with this, he paused, then yelled: “Nah, I’m just kidding! He’s F***ING CRAZY!” The ballroom roared with laughter. “ARE YOU KIDDING?! Come on. You guys are buying that? I love it … He just stresses me out so much! … I’m going to deny I ever said it.”

It didn’t stop there: “The press often will ask me if I think Donald Trump is crazy. And I’ll say it this way: I don’t think he’s so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain’t getting out!”

While edgy comedy is a Gridiron Dinner tradition, Sununu went out of his way to target the former president. When he mocked conspiracy theorist and pillow manufacturer Mike Lindell, he threw in a shot at Trump.

“This guy’s head is stuffed with more crap than his pillows, Sununu said. “And by the way, I was told not to say this, but I will: His stuff is crap. I mean, it’s absolute crap. You only find that kind of stuff in the Trump Hotel.”

Also from Politico:

Sununu also told a story about a time Trump visited him in New Hampshire and invited him to ride inside the presidential limo, The Beast. The then-president suddenly stopped talking and pointed out the window at people lining the road holding American flags, saying, “They LOVE me!” Only problem, said Sununu, was that the man he pointed to held a sign that read, “F*** TRUMP.”

While some Granite State Republicans shrugged it off as comedy — “It’s a Gridiron roast. Political jokes. I don’t take any of it seriously,” said RNC Committeeman Chris Ager — Trump allies like longtime advisor Corey Lewandowski were not amused.

“Chris Sununu is not his father. His father is very tough and a true Trump supporter,” he told NHJournal. “If Chris had any guts, he would have run for U.S. Senate, and instead took the easy way out. And if the right Republican were to run against him, I’d be willing to bet Donald Trump would endorse [Sununu’s] opponent.”

Former GOP state Rep. Josh Whitehouse, who served in the Trump administration, was even blunter:

“Chris Sununu has positioned himself to be the anti-Trump guy. He is appointing Democrats to judgeships, supporting anti-Trump candidates, and spiking a great redistricting plan to protect his beer buddy [Jeff Cozzens] in CD2. I guess the only thing I am surprised about is that he isn’t running on the other side of the ticket.

“Of course, nothing should surprise any of us when the governor is a guy whose only real qualification was his last name,” Whitehouse added.

In February, Lewandowski told radio host Howie Carr, “The president is very unhappy with the chief executive officer of the state of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu. And Sununu, in the president’s estimation, is someone who’s never been loyal to him. And the president said it would be really great if somebody would run against Chris Sununu.”

This is a far cry from the days when Sununu infamously called himself a “Trump guy through and through.”

Team Sununu took the reaction in stride.

“The Gridiron dinner is an annual comedic event built around using self-deprecating humor to instill a spirit of bipartisanship,” Sununu advisor Paul Collins, said in a statement Sunday. “Gov. Sununu began by making fun of his own father and family and included jokes on everyone from CNN to Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Jenn Psaki. It was a great night where no one took themselves too seriously, and given the crowd’s reaction to some of the governor’s jokes, he will be keeping his day job.”

While attacking Trump isn’t exactly the third rail of GOP politics, it does put Sununu at the center of the biggest debate dividing the Republican Party. Last week’s St. Anselm College Survey Center poll found Trump’s approval rating is 84 percent among registered Republicans and 94 percent among very conservative Granite Staters.

That compares to 86 percent among GOP voters who approve of Sununu, and 83 percent of very conservative Republicans.

Trump is even more popular in early primary states like Iowa and South Carolina, where he handily defeated Biden in the 2020 election. (Trump lost New Hampshire by 7.5 points.)

Republican strategists in New Hampshire and D.C. told NHJournal Sununu’s aggressively anti-Trump stance is a sign he is looking seriously at a presidential bid in 2024. He appears to be betting big that GOP primary voters will have a very different view of Trump in 18 months than they do today.

“This is a huge gamble,” one GOP strategist said. “There is no walking this back.”

“I’d say it’s a win for the governor,” GOP campaign vet Craig Stevens told NHJournal. “He took advantage of the moment and he showed people he’s not afraid of President Trump. And he did with charm, humor, and humility.”

Stevens, who worked on the George W. Bush and Mitt Romney campaigns said that, as a result of this speech, “Republicans and independents all over the country who had never heard of Chris Sununu are going to be talking. And many who may be looking for an alternative to Trump and his acolytes have someone new to watch. And, in this case, that’s the definition of a win.”

If that was Sununu’s goal, it worked. In addition to being the top story in the Politico Playbook, his comments made headlines in The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and the Big Three broadcast newsrooms, plus the London (U.K.) tabloids.

While more than 600 people attended the purportedly bipartisan event, only two GOP members of Congress, Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Susan Collins (Maine), showed up for the dinner. President Biden was also a no-show, but he sent a video in which he thanked Sununu for “helping Democrats keep the Senate.”

In January, Biden gave Sununu a shout-out during a press conference, using Sununu’s criticisms of Senate Republicans to defend his own record in the White House.

Few Granite State Republicans wanted to speak on the record about Sununu’s take on Trump. In the U.S. Senate primary, retired Gen. Don Bolduc and state Senate President Chuck Morse declined to comment. However, former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said he believed the goal among Granite State Republicans should be unity as the midterms approach.

” I continue to believe our party is better and stronger when we are united, and I have no doubt that in November, we will be. As for me, I’d gladly go back to when we had no inflation, $2 gas, were energy independent, had secure borders and our country was safer.

“Say what you want about Trump, but we were much better off two years ago than we are today – and that’s no joke,” Smith said.

Amherst Man Who Threatened Violence Against Congress Puts Blame on Trump

Booze and heavy doses of right-wing misinformation pushed Navy veteran Ryder Winegar to call members of Congress last year, threatening to rape and murder them if they did not support President Donald Trump.

He’s now going to prison.

Winegar’s attorney, Charles Keefe, told the court this week his client regrets his actions and now rejects the ideology that led him to prison.

“After months of becoming caught up in ultra-conservative news-outlet information, and allowing himself to be indoctrinated with a dogma spewed by the former president and his followers, Ryder’s depression and anxiety found an outlet,” Keefe wrote. “Fueled by his intoxication, Ryder proceeded to leave a series of disgusting, racist, and threatening voicemails for six members of Congress regarding the results of the 2020 presidential election.”

Keefe asked the court to give the 35-year-old a sentence of time served. He’s been jailed since his arrest last year. John Farley, the acting United States Attorney for New Hampshire, wanted the 33-months in prison Winegar got, saying his threats were part of former President Donald Trump’s overall movement to upend the 2020 election.

“Add it all up, this is serious conduct that was intended to disrupt the functioning of government at the highest levels and warrants the imposition of a sentence that reflects the gravity of the offenses,” Farley wrote.

On the night of Dec. 15, Winegar downed a six-pack of beer, two bottles of sake, and a few tumblers of tequila before he called six members of Congress and threatened to kill them if they did not support Trump’s efforts to stay in office after his loss to President Joe Biden. 

The members of Congress are not identified in the court records. Winegar made calls to offices in D.C. after midnight, and left voicemail messages for the Congress members. He also left his name and phone number on many of the messages.

One of the messages Winegar, edited to remove extreme profanities, is a typical example:

“Here’s the advice, Donald Trump is your president. If you don’t get behind him, we’re going to hang you until you die … You can come, you can keep being a shill for the Chinese communist party. And you know, like the, uh, the Jewish banking cartel, or you can stand up and do the right thing and back America’s president Donald Trump. Support freedom.”

Days before he called and left the threats, Winegar also emailed threats to a New Hampshire state representative, according to court records.

When Capitol police investigators went to Winegar’s home in Amherst to talk about the phone calls, Winegar reportedly told them to get off his property. The next day his wife drove him to Boston’s Logan Airport where he boarded a flight to Brazil, according to court records. He stayed out of the country until he was convinced to come home, at which point he was arrested at the airport.

Investigators searched his home and found an AR-15 rifle loaded with light armor-piercing ammunition, a loaded shotgun, a loaded 9mm pistol, an unloaded rifle with a scope, several hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and a body armor vest, with clips and Level IV body armor plates.

Winegar pleaded guilty to all charges in August. Keefe wrote that Winegar’s 10 months in jail is the longest stretch of time he’s been sober since he was 12. Alcohol and marijuana use played a key role in his crimes, as does childhood trauma, Keefe wrote.

“As well, his actions derived from an alcohol-fueled form of political hysteria that he now renounces. It is very likely that Ryder’s actions in this case, and the mindset that allowed him to commit these offenses, is connected to the instability and unusual influences of his childhood,” Keefe wrote.

Winegar grew up in the Church of Scientology, which was founded by pulp writer L. Ron Hubbard. It teaches belief in alien lifeforms that inhabit the human body and are the cause of all emotional problems, as well as belief in past lives, and a sci-fi infused history of the earth. Scientology also prohibits followers from seeking mental health treatments.

“The Church of Scientology has been described by government inquiries, international parliamentary bodies, scholars, law lords, and numerous superior court judgements as both a dangerous cult and a manipulative profit-making business,” Keefe wrote.

 Winegar found structure in the Navy, and excelled at learning languages, according to Keefe. He was honorably discharged but had trouble adapting back to civilian life. He stopped taking medications like Zoloft, and started heavy use of alcohol and marijuana leading up to the 2020 presidential election, according to Keefe. As part of the sentence, Winegar will pay a $15,000 fine.

“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that threats of violence have no place in our political discourse,” Farley said in a statement. “While all citizens are free to express their political opinions, it is unlawful to threaten to commit acts of violence against members of Congress or members of the state legislature.  This defendant’s graphic threats were a troubling attempt to intimidate lawmakers and a direct assault on the functioning of our constitutional system.  This sentence should send a message to the community that those who threaten to commit acts of violence against duly-elected legislators will be held accountable for their unlawful conduct.”

Five Questions for Chris Pappas

After months of avoiding questions about his views on impeachment, Rep. Chris Pappas took to the friendly media environs of New Hampshire Public Radio to discuss his support for impeaching President Trump and removing him from office.

Unfortunately, a few significant questions somehow slipped through the cracks. We here at New Hampshire Journal have sent them over to Rep. Pappas’ office. When we get his answers, we’ll be happy to share them with the voters of the First Congressional District.

 

1: Rep. Pappas, you said these impeachment articles represent “a very strong, clear-cut case with respect to the issue of Ukraine.” A clear-cut case of what? Neither article of impeachment alleges President Trump broke the law. Do you believe future Democratic presidents should face the prospect of removal from office by a Republican Congress without even the assertion of having violated any federal law?

2: Rep. Pappas, you’re supporting articles of impeachment that have no bipartisan support. In fact, even some of your fellow House Democrats are voting against impeachment. Do you view an entirely partisan impeachment vote to be as legitimate as a bipartisan one, such as the 410-4 vote in 1973 to start an impeachment inquiry into President Richard Nixon?

 

 

3: When the House of Representatives voted articles of impeachment in 1998, 31 Democrats joined with Republicans to impeach President Bill Clinton, who admitted that he had committed perjury before a federal judge and federal grand jury. Rep. Pappas, do you believe the impeachment of President Clinton was legitimate? Would you have voted to impeach him?  If not, why?

4: Rep. Pappas, you said you objected to Senate Republicans coordinating the handling of the impeachment trial with the White House, calling it “colluding.” But then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has acknowledged that he frequently met with the Clinton White House during the impeachment process. And the Clinton White House issued demands that there be no witnesses called during the impeachment, a demand upheld by the Democratic minority in the Senate.  Should Republican presidents be impeached differently from Democrats?

5: Rep. Pappas, you rejected the suggestion that your support for impeachment is a sign that you’re merely a water carrier for Speaker Nancy Pelosi and your party’s leadership. “I’m also willing to stand up to members of my own party when they’re wrong for New Hampshire,” you told NHPR.  Can you give an example?

 

And a bonus question, the same question New Hampshire Journal’s been asking the congressman since he first announced his support for an impeachment inquiry in July:

Rep. Pappas, what is your message to the majority of voters in your district, who voted to make Trump president and whose votes you’d be overruling by removing Trump from office?

We look forward to sharing Rep. Pappas’ answers to these reasonable and timely questions in this space.

After Months of Silence, Pappas Falls in Line on Impeachment

The only question NH political observers have about Chris Pappas’ announcement that he’ll vote to impeach President Donald Trump is what took him so long?

Sticking with his fellow Democrats was always the smart play for Pappas, one of the 31 Democrats in Congress representing a district Trump carried in 2016. While polls show swing voters tend to oppose impeachment and removal of President Trump — and that opposition is rising — for Pappas there’s simply no upside to breaking with his party leadership and going rogue.

“Voting against impeachment won’t get him a single Republican vote, and voting for it won’t cost him a single Democrat,” one NH Democratic insider told NHJournal. “Pappas was always going to vote this way.”

That certainly appeared to be the case in July when Pappas became the first Democrat from a Trump district to back the impeachment inquiry. It was an unusually aggressive move from the reputedly mild-mannered congressman, one that left some NH Democrats puzzled.

Was Pappas going to aggressively embrace the impeachment push?

Instead, the congressman quickly dropped the subject, refusing months of requests for comment and leaving the impeachment topic out of his public statements and social media, even as the debate raged in Washington, D.C. and on the front pages of New Hampshire’s newspapers.

Sunday night, with the impeachment vote looming and most Granite Staters watching the NFL, Pappas posted a statement on his website announcing his decision.

“I have reviewed the articles and the underlying evidence and testimony very closely. I have heard from constituents on all sides of this issue. Ultimately, this comes down to the facts, the Constitution, and my conscience,” according to the statement. “What the President has done is blatantly wrong, and I will not stand idly by when a President compromises the rule of law and our national security for his own personal political benefit.

“I will support both articles when they come to the floor for a vote. The President abused the powers of his office and obstructed Congress as it sought to put facts on the table for the American people and hold him accountable,” Pappas wrote. “Our nation’s founders created a government with shared powers and co-equal branches of government. They gave us the presidency — not a monarchy.

“They created a system where no one is above the law, even the President of the United States. If Congress does not act in this case where bright Constitutional lines have been crossed, we dishonor the wisdom of our founders and undermine the institutions of our democracy.”

new Suffolk Poll released Sunday finds that only 41 percent of Americans say House members should vote to impeach Trump. Independent voters, who will determine Pappas’ fate next November, oppose a House impeachment vote by an 11-point margin, 52-41 percent.

The NHGOP and the Trump campaign immediately went on the attack.

Trump ally and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NHJournal, “Chris Pappas’s vote for impeachment is in direct conflict with the people of the First Congressional District who voted to elect Donald J. Trump President.

“Congressman Pappas has sold his vote to appease AOC, Rashid Tlaib and the extreme left of the Democrat party.  I predict he will be a one-term Congressman because NH voters don’t support a ‘Do-Nothing Democrat’ who has accomplished nothing while in Washington, D.C.”

Other GOP sources tell NHJournal internal polling shows voting for impeachment is unpopular among NH-01 voters, and they believe it creates an opportunity to take back a seat they lost in 2016.

“Chris Pappas just let down all those in the First District who want a Congress that works for them, not for the far-left Democrat base. Coming out in favor of impeaching the President on a Sunday night after weeks of lackluster Democrat circus hearings in D.C. is disgraceful,” NHGOP chairman Steve Stepanek said in a statement. “Congressman Pappas clearly didn’t listen to Granite Staters when making his decision, and voters will swiftly replace him on November 3rd.”

RNC Spokesperson Nina McLaughlin said, “Chris Pappas’ choice to support the impeachment sham is the ultimate betrayal of his constituents. Granite Staters won’t forget that Pappas chose Nancy Pelosi and the socialist squad over them.”

Pappas joins fellow NH Democrat Rep. Annie Kuster in publicly announcing his support for impeachment, and both U.S. senators, Democrats Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, are expected to vote to remove Trump from office when the impeachment comes to the Senate floor next year.

Interestingly, even in announcing his decision, Pappas declined yet again to answer the same, simple question: What’s his message to the majority of voters in his district who backed President Trump in 2016 and whose vote he’s now attempting to overturn?

His inability to answer is yet another sign of how tricky the impeachment issue is for swing-district Democrats like Pappas.

The Kanye Effect? New Polls Show Black Support for Trump Surging

Rush Limbaugh could hardly contain his excitement. “We’ve got three polls today showing Donald Trump at 30 percent or higher with black voters,” he told his national radio audience on Monday. “We’ve got Emerson, we’ve got Rasmussen and we’ve got Marist!”

Rush was echoing a Trump 2020 campaign email entitled “Black Voters Are Raising Their Voices in Support of President Trump. Recent Polls Show Significant Increase in Support from Black Community.”

“You can’t dispute the fact that African Americans have been benefiting from President Trump’s policies,” Katrina Pierson with the Trump campaign said in a statement. “Four years ago, the President asked the black community, ‘What do you have to lose;’ now we are thinking, ‘Imagine what we stand to gain!’”

The new Emerson poll puts Trump at 35 percent with black voters and 38 percent with Hispanics. “If you add in Asian voters at 28 percent approval,” notes Emerson’s director of polling Spencer Kimball, “our number is very close to the new Marist poll,” which finds Trump’s approval at 33 percent among non-white voters.  A recent RasmussenReports poll has Trump support among black voters at 34 percent, and even the new CNN poll has Trump’s approval among non-white voters at 26 percent.

Why is losing black voters by a two-to-one margin something to shout about? Because if Donald Trump came anywhere close to those numbers on Election Day, he’d likely win a 50-state sweep. Minority voters–and black voters in particular– are an absolutely vital part of the Democratic base. And they don’t vote for Republicans, particularly for president.

Over the past 40 years, black voter support for Republican presidential candidates has consistently registered somewhere between “embarrassingly low” and “nonexistent.”  Running for re-election with a red-hot economy, President Reagan got just 9 percent of the African-American vote in 1984. That’s the same 9 percent GOP presidential candidates averaged ever since, according to data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.

In his 2012 race against President Obama, Republican Mitt Romney got just 6 percent support from black voters. John McCain? Four percent.

Enter Donald Trump. His 8 percent support in 2016 was typical for a GOP candidate, but there’s been nothing typical about the Trump presidency. Could these new polls be a sign he’s making progress with voters of color where a traditional Republican could not?

“Absolutely,” says John Burnett, a strategic advisor to the New York GOP and an African-American Republican.

“Trump is the wedding crasher,” Burnett told NHJournal. And while Democrats have a longtime relationship with African-American voters, Burnett says “they never really sealed the deal. Now Trump has shown up at the ceremony and he’s telling us, ‘You can do better!'”

Is 30 percent support among black voters for Trump really impossible?

“I have a better chance of jumping center for the Celtics tonight than Donald Trump having 30 percent support in the African-American community,” former Hillary 2016 advisor Joel Payne, who is African-American, told NHJournal.  “Donald Trump’s presidency is an existential crisis for the African-American community and I would predict historically-low African-American support for him next November.”

CNN’s anti-Trump host Ana Navarro-Cárdenas went even further. “Zero chance this is accurate. Zero,” she tweeted. “The poll must have only been conducted in the homes of Ben Carson, Kanye, that sheriff guy with the hat and those two Cubic Zirconia & Polyester-Spandex ladies.” (She’s referring to former Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke and African-American Fox News personalities Diamond & Silk.)

And it’s true that these polls are contradicted by data from Gallup and Quinnipiac University, where Trump’s numbers among black voters remain both steady and unimpressive.

“Trump clearly thinks he should be improving on the 8 percent vote among blacks he received three years ago,” writes Gallup’s senior scientist Frank Newport. “Based on what we see so far in terms of black ratings of the job Trump is doing as president, currently at 10 percent, I don’t see a high probability of that happening.”

And it may not.  But the non-traditional nature of the Trump presidency combined with his overt efforts to engage black voters means Democrats may have to change their math.  From Kanye West’s Oval Office photo op to the campaign’s Black Voices for Trump” coalition to a focus on historically black colleges and universities, Donald Trump is reaching out to African-American voters more aggressively than any Republican president in recent years.

Meanwhile, some black activists are stepping up, too. African-American conservatives Autry Pruitt and James Golden — better known as Rush Limbaugh’s senior producer ‘Bo Snerdly’ — just launched a new website, MAGA.BLACK, with the self-declared mission to “Make Black Americans Republican Again.”

Golden, aka ‘Snerdley,’ told InsideSources that Democrats aren’t having a conversation that’s connecting with black voters. “My mother is a die-hard Democrat, and even she is sick of the Democrats’ impeachment efforts. She’s not paying any attention to it. She recently told me her party should stop picking on Trump and let the man do his job.”

Democrats may be right about talk of 30 percent of black voters backing Trump being unrealistic. But if Trump gets half that support, his re-election would be all but assured. According to research reported by the Washington Post, Trump’s 2016 win was aided in part by a national drop in black turnout of just 4.7 points from 2012. In the swing states, black turnout fell a modest 5.3 percent.

Are black voters who stayed home rather than back Hillary Clinton really going to turn out for a Pete Buttigieg or Liz Warren?  If low unemployment and investment in education convince just 5 percent of black voters to cast their first GOP ballot, or (more likely) stay home, how do Democrats make up for those lost votes in Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Jacksonville?

Critics at CNN can mock Trump’s high-profile black supporters like Kanye, but Golden believes that’s a mistake. “Kanye isn’t alone. There are more African Americans speaking out now than at any other time I remember.”

Maybe just enough to re-elect Donald Trump.

Joe Biden’s Draft Record Looks a Lot Like Donald Trump’s. Do Democrats Care?

He was 6 feet tall and had an athlete’s build. He played football in high school and was active in sports throughout college. He spent one summer as a lifeguard at a local pool.

But after he graduated college in the spring of 1968 and became eligible for the draft and —possibly — combat duty in Vietnam, he received a diagnosis that let him avoid military service.

No, not bone spurs. Asthma.

And his name was Joe Biden.

Just a few months before President Donald Trump received his now-infamous diagnosis of “bone spurs in the heels,” former high school football star Biden got the same 1-Y draft deferment for “asthma as a teenager.” It was one of five deferments Biden received (the same number as notorious GOP “draft dodger” Dick Cheney) and allowed him to avoid being drafted at the height of the war. The year 1968 was one of the bloodiest of the Vietnam conflict with 296,406 Americans drafted into military service — the second-highest during the war.

Joe Biden’s 1966 yearbook photo.

Fifty-one years after the Summer of Love, the draft records of the sitting president, and at least one of the Democrats who want to replace him, are issues in the 2020 campaign.  In recent weeks, two of the military veterans in the race — Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton — have been highlighting Trump’s draft record and their own military service.

“You have somebody who thinks it’s all right to have somebody go in his place into a deadly war and is willing to pretend to be disabled to do it. That is an assault on the honor of this country,” Buttigieg told ABC’s This Week. He served in the Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer, spending six months in Afghanistan.

Moulton, a former Marine officer who served in Iraq, also accused Trump of dodging the draft. “I’d like to meet that American someday who went to Vietnam in Donald Trump’s place,” Moulton said. “I hope he’s still alive.”

Military veterans running on their record of service is nothing new. And criticism of an opponent’s military background — or lack thereof — isn’t unusual either, as the Bill Clinton and John Kerry campaigns can attest. But by highlighting Trump’s record, they’re also turning a spotlight on other candidates who were eligible for service during the Vietnam War, including Biden.

In fact, some Democratic strategists believe that’s their true goal.

“They’re not talking about Donald Trump. They’re talking about Joe Biden,” one long-time Democratic activist told InsideSources.

The Moulton campaign, which was the first to highlight the draft issue, denies any intra-party purpose. “Seth is running to take on Donald Trump and has been leading the field in challenging him directly as commander-in-chief,” Moulton campaign spokesperson Matt Corridoni told InsideSources. “There’s nothing more to read into this than Trump is a draft dodger and Seth is a decorated four-tour combat veteran who is calling the president out.”

The Biden and Buttigieg campaigns declined repeated requests for comment. But it’s naïve to think that raising the issue of Trump’s Vietnam-era behavior isn’t going to blow back on Biden.

DID BIDEN DODGE THE DRAFT?

There’s no denying that, by all appearances, the Joe Biden of 1968 was the picture of health.  During his time at Archmere Academy, Biden excelled at sports.  And while he once falsely claimed he played for the University of Delaware football team, he considered playing on the team (he chose to focus on his double-major in history and political science instead, he says) and he was active in intramural sports.

As the Associated Press noted in 2008, “Promises to Keep,” Biden’s best-selling memoir,  “never mentions his asthma, recounting an active childhood, work as a lifeguard and football exploits in high school.”

 

Video of Joe Biden playing football as a teen

Biden frequently tells the story of his decision to spend a summer home from college working as the only white lifeguard at a pool predominately used by black residents. His goal was to learn more about the community, in part because he already had political ambitions.

One incident from that summer stands out: How Biden had to wrap a six-foot length of metal chain around his arm to face off against a knife-wielding local tough who went by the name “Corn Pop.”

“You might cut me, Corn Pop, but I’m going to wrap this chain around your head before you do,” Biden told him. Strong words, but he was a healthy, high school football player who could back them up. Biden and Corn Pop resolved their differences without violence and, according to Biden, became poolside friends.

Just six years later, at the height of the fighting in Vietnam, that same poolside athlete avoided mandatory military service due to “asthma as a teenager.”

Joe Biden’s high school yearbook from Archmere Academy

Does this prove that Biden was dishonest or made a false claim? No. But a similar story from Donald Trump was enough for Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D- Wis.), who was wounded while serving in Iraq,  to label President Trump a “coward.”

@realDonaldTrump got his deferments for the wrong thing. They shouldn’t have been for his disappearing, imaginary bone spurs — they should have been for that yellow streak down his back. At least that would have been a real condition,” Duckworth tweeted on Wednesday.

Based on the lack of media coverage and interviews with Democratic primary voters, it appears that few potential Biden supporters even know about his draft deferments. And even if they did, would it matter?

“The Vietnam War is ancient history in the Democratic Party,” veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum told InsideSources.  “The war was unpopular then and it’s unpopular now. The idea that someone didn’t want to go or [like Sen. Bernie Sanders] was a conscientious objector, that’s not going to keep them from winning the nomination.”

And a new Politico/Morning Consult poll of registered Democrats found that more than half didn’t believe it was important for their party’s nominee to be a veteran. Only a third of Democrats said military service by their nominee was important at all.

The question is particularly problematic for Blake Bassett, an Army veteran and co-founder of Veterans for Joe Biden. Bassett told InsideSources his group is unaffiliated with the Biden campaign and that he started it after seeing a photo of Biden giving money to a homeless veteran at a Washington, D.C. movie theater.

“I really thought it showed strength of character, and I knew he was thinking about running for office, so we created the organization in the hopes that we could somehow influence that in a small way,” Bassett said. “And we have since been trying to bolster the support amongst the veteran community for Joe Biden.”

And what about the “strength of character” in 1968? What would Bassett say to someone questioning Biden’s decision not to serve?

“I would say that there are a lot of different ways to serve, right? Going to Vietnam is one of them.  Teaching America’s youth is another. And running for office and implementing policies that are for the greater good, that’s another way to serve.

“Joe Biden is a very strong advocate of the military and veterans, despite having not served,” Bassett said.

Combat medic and former member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives Amelia Keane is more direct.

“I certainly don’t agree with someone taking a deferment and to avoid service to their country, particularly when they have aims of public service at the time,” she told InsideSources. “They should do their full duty to the country, and if there is a draft, they should make every effort to serve their time just like other Americans had to do.”

Until recently Keane was head of the influential New Hampshire Young Democrats, who’ve been wooed by the young military veterans in the race like Buttigieg, Moulton and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.  At the same time, military issues have thus far taken a back seat to both economic issues like Medicare For All and social issues like abortion.

And Shrum adds one more data point to ponder:

“No Vietnam veteran has ever been elected President of the United States.”

Bill Weld Announces Primary Against “Unstable” Trump and the “Stockholm Syndrome” GOP

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld told a politically-savvy New Hampshire audience that he is forming an exploratory committee to challenge President Trump in the 2020 GOP primary to rescue the party from “Stockholm Syndrome.”

“Our President is simply too unstable to carry out the duties of the highest executive office,” Weld told the Politics and Eggs breakfast in Bedford, NH—a must-stop on the presidential campaign trail through the Granite State. “They say the President has captured the Republican party in Washington. As the president might say: ‘Sad.’ But even sadder is that many Republicans exhibit all the symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with their captor.”

For Weld, who last held elected office in 1997, riding to the rescue of the GOP is an unexpected role.  His most recent foray into American politics was as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president, and he has long been at odds with the party’s conservative base.  In fact, Weld often notes that the Gary Johnson/Bill Weld ticket in 2016 took votes by a three-to-one margin from otherwise GOP voters. “A Libertarian vote was a protest vote or change vote in 2016. Those votes were going to go to Donald J. Trump not Hillary Clinton,” Weld said.

But Weld has returned to the GOP  because, he argues, Trump has put the country “in grave peril.”

Weld began his remarks to the crowd of New England business people and political insiders with a withering critique of President Trump, calling him a “schoolyard bully” who “virtually spat upon the idea that we should have freedom of the press,” and who “goes out of his way to insult and even humiliate ore democratic allies.”

“The situation is not yet hopeless,” Weld said, “but we do need a mid-course correction. We need to install leaders who know that character counts.

“As we move towards 2020 election we must uphold difference between the open heart, open mind and open handedness of patriotism versus the hard heart, closed mind and clenched fist of nativism and nationalism,” Weld said.

Weld laid out a series of his own policy proposals that were commonly heard in GOP circles in the 1990s but are rarely advocated today: a 19 percent flat income tax, baseline budgeting for the federal government and individual retirement accounts for “millennials who may never receive the benefits of Social Security.”  But it wasn’t Weld’s policy proposals that generated the massive media attention his speech received. It was the premise of a primary challenge against President Trump.

Weld repeatedly suggested that other candidates might enter the 2020 race, both as third-party candidates and as Republicans, which he clearly saw as a positive development.  When asked if his entrance into the GOP primary “would make the dam break,” Weld answered “If I get traction and cracks begin to appear, you may see a gold rush.”

This possibility—that Weld’s candidacy will open the door to a more traditional Republican challenger– may pose Weld’s most significant danger to Trump.  Trump’s poll numbers, both nationally and in key early primary states like New Hampshire, have actually risen in recent months.  Emerson College’s Director of Polling Spencer Kimball tells InsideSources that “We were just in the field in Iowa testing Trump vs. [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich and Trump was up 90-10 percent. It’s not going to be any easier there for Bill Weld.”

And in New Hampshire, which border’s Weld’s home state of Massachusetts, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is 82 percent, and his approval among all Granite State voters has risen from 36 percent a year ago to 43 percent today in the latest NHIOP poll. When asked if they would encourage Trump to run for re-election in 2020, 77 percent of New Hampshire Republicans said yes.

Which may explain why multiple Republican strategists told InsideSources that they see little if any path forward for Weld in the Republican primary (“He misses on some of the attributes I think are needed to run a successful national effort,” New Hampshire-based GOP consultant Dave Carney tells InsideSources.)

Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson of Echelon Insights says “Bill Weld is fighting an uphill battle on two fronts. First is that President Trump remains quite popular within the party, and rank-and-file Republican voters do not want to see a primary battle that could impair President Trump in a general election against a Democrat.

“Second is that Weld’s particular brand of Republicanism is now very rare in the party. Lots of voters in America are socially and fiscally progressive or are socially and fiscally conservative. But among those who ‘mix it up’ a bit, you find more people who are fiscally progressive but socially conservative – the opposite of a sort of ‘New England Republican’ formula.”

And even if the GOP base were in the mood to make a change, it’s hard to imagine the Republican Party of 2020 embracing Weld, with his history of pro-abortion and pro-amnesty policies, and his support for liberal politicians like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

“The Republican Party is a big tent, but someone who endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 as the Libertarian Party’s Vice Presidential nominee really needs to think about how welcome he is in the Republican Party,” said Steve Stepanek, chairman of the New Hampshire GOP.

“I don’t expect his campaign to get very far among Republican primary voters.”

Weld announced that he plans to stump across New Hampshire and other states in coming weeks, but emphasized that he has not made a final decision to run.

“If people won’t buy dog food, then I won’t advance,” Weld conceded. “That’s how it is in showbiz. If the dogs won’t eat the dog food, it doesn’t matter how good the promoter is.”