inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

Pence Sets Frenzied Pace Across Granite State

MANCHESTER — Mike Pence kept saying during his trip through New Hampshire — on a chilly Wednesday in December where he was followed by national media — that he isn’t running for president. 

At least not yet.

The former Vice President is looking to help elect Republicans in the 2022 mid-term races as part of an effort to push back on President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. After that, he might be open to the possibility of his own presidential run.

“Now more than ever, every American should be focused on the 2022 elections, and that’s where we’re entirely focused,” he told CNN’s Michael Warren. “Come 2023, we’ll do what my family always does; we’ll reflect, and we’ll pray, and we’ll go where we feel we’re called.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence visits The Simply Delicious Bakery in Bedford, N.H.

Pence certainly looked like a presidential candidate, calling into local talk radio shows and making a half-dozen campaign stops in a single day. In between a morning stop at the Simply Delicious Bakery in Bedford and a state senate fundraiser in the evening, Pence was the featured speaker at a Heritage Action for America event in Manchester. He talked foreign affairs, national security, and what he called out-of-control Washington spending. Heritage Action is the political arm of the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation, and boasts millions of grassroots volunteers who stand at the ready to get behind the right candidate.

Pence took aim at Biden’s foreign policy, calling the withdrawal from Afghanistan a disgrace that damaged the country’s standing. That loss of standing could be setting the stage for another disaster in the Ukraine, where Russian troops appear ready to invade.

“The reality is, weakness arouses evil,” Pence said.

Pence said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to invade Ukraine will need to be met with military force. That means the U.S. needs to start arming the Ukrainian military, as President Donald Trump did.

“(The Obama-Biden Administration) sent blankets and military meals in boxes, but we sent arms to Ukraine so they could defend themselves,” Pence said. “I met Vladimir Putin. I saw what he did in Crimea. I think it is going to take action [to stop an invasion],” Pence said.

Boasting about Trump’s arming the Ukrainian military is problematic for Pence. While it’s true the Trump administration approved offensive weapons for the Ukraine government the Obama administration refused to sell them. Trump later ordered arms shipments held up in an attempt to get the Ukraine government to investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

Pence also teed off on Biden’s Build Back Better spending plan, which he dubbed ‘Build Back Broke’ after several tries at a slogan. He said the spending plan would shift America into a socialist society, and it needs to be stopped.

“It would be an unmitigated disaster for American families and American workers and I came to say we’re not going to let it happen,” Pence said. “We gotta shut down their big-government, socialist agenda right now.”

Pence made several stops in New Hampshire, including The Riverside Room, a small venue in Manchester’s mill district. The capacity crowd was made up of party insiders like New Hampshire GOP Committee Chairman Stephen Stepanek, and congressional candidates like Jeff Cozzens and Matt Mowers. 

Mowers said Pence could be a strong contender in the 2024 race, but he’s not going to commit to any candidate, yet.

“It depends on who gets on the race,” Mowers said.

And the “who” on everyone’s mind at the campaign events is former President Trump, who injected himself into Pence’s Granite State appearance. His Save America PAC released a statement during Pence’s visit referencing the 2020 election. It linked an interview Pence gave CBN News in which he said he believed there were “irregularities” in the 2020 election. It’s a comment he’s made several times in the past, though he also says he did the right thing certifying the election.

“Good man, but big mistake on not recognizing the massive voter fraud and irregularities,” Trump said in his press release.

 

 

Bob Dole: A Hero, If Not A Winner, In The Granite State

When the news of former U.S. Senator Bob Dole’s passing broke Sunday, politicos on both sides of the aisle praised his impressive record of public service, from fighting in World War II to serving as the GOP’s presidential nominee in 1996.

His record in New Hampshire is less impressive, however. He ran in the First in the Nation GOP primary three times — ’80, ’88, and ’96 — without a win.

“Now I know why it’s called ‘The Granite State,'” Dole said the night he narrowly lost the 1996 primary to pundit Pat Buchanan. “It’s tough to crack.”

Praise for Dole poured out of the political community Sunday, with Gov. Chris Sununu ordering flags on all public buildings and grounds in New Hampshire to fly at half-staff in his honor.

“Bob Dole will long be remembered for his lifetime of service to the United States — defending the freedoms of Americans and those abroad in the Army during World War II, and championing the principles of liberty during his decades of public service as an elected official. I join with my fellow Granite Staters and Americans in remembering his legacy,” Sununu said in his statement.

Ironically, his father Gov. John H. Sununu, was key to helping George H. W. Bush defeat Dole in the Granite State’s 1988 primary

“New Hampshire voters tend to like candidates who are a little different. And Bob Dole was ‘Republican Establishment’ through and through,” former Second Congressional District GOP U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass told NHJournal. “Reagan, Buchanan, McCain, and of course Trump.”

Former President Donald Trump issued a statement Sunday, calling Dole “an American war hero and true patriot for our nation. He served the great state of Kansas with honor and the Republican Party was made stronger by his service.”

It’s hard to imagine a Republican with less in common with Trump than Dole, who was gravely injured in combat in Italy. (Trump, like Biden, used bogus health claims to dodge the Vietnam draft.) And yet Dole endorsed Trump in 2016 — after first backing Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio — the only one of the five living previous GOP presidential nominees to do so.

Dole did it in the name of party unity, telling the Republican leadership to respect their primary voters and rally around Trump in order to defeat Hillary Clinton. “He had a career often seen as a testament to absolute fidelity to the Republican Party,” said political commentator Jeff Greenfield.

Dole’s career, which began in the Kansas House of Representatives in 1950, took him through a time when the GOP establishment was extremely out of favor: Watergate. Dole was chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1971-72, and he was closely identified with President Richard Nixon when the scandal erupted. In 1974, the year Nixon resigned, Dole narrowly won re-election by 1.7 percent.

“During the campaign, when Nixon was in trouble and needed friends, he called Dole and asked if the senator wanted him to come campaign on the ground in Kansas,” Bass said. “Dole said ‘How about a fly-by in Air Force One’ instead?”

Longtime  NHGOP strategist Dave Carney, who worked on Dole’s presidential campaign as well as his majority leadership office, said the Kansas Republican loved New Hampshire, “even if the voters didn’t love him back.

“He loved the retail politics, the diners, town meetings, and home coffees allowed folks to see the real Dole: Smart, funny, and authentic,” Carney said. “He ran three times and extended his support each time. He was tough as nails and had a life of experiences that allow everyone to relate to him personally.”

Strategist Tom Rath, who also worked for Dole, echoed those sentiments.

“He really liked New Hampshire. He made a lot of friends here and kept them until the end,” Rath told NHJournal. “Bob Dole was fascinating to work for. He had great command of the issues. He was genuinely funny and was great at the back and forth that goes on behind the scenes in politics.”

Many Granite Staters had their own stories of meeting Dole and the impression he left on them.

“I was working as a staffer for Congressman [David] Emery in Maine in the 1970s and the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Charlie, this is Bob Dole.” I thought someone was pulling a joke on me, but he had served with my father [Perkins Bass] and showed he knew my name. He wanted to talk about New Hampshire politics.”

A few years later, he would run in the 1980 FITN primary, losing to Ronald Reagan and finishing well behind George H. W. Bush and Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee.

“One day when I was a young teenager, Sen. Tom McIntyre [D-N.H.] took me to the senators’ dining room for lunch and he took me over to Bob Dole’s table to meet him,” New Hampshire Democratic strategist Jim Demers said Sunday. “I will never forget how nice he was to me, spending about 20 minutes talking with me. It made a big impression on me,” Demers said.

“There is no doubt Bob Dole built a career as a conservative Republican, but he was one who recognized a bipartisan deal was better than getting nothing. Our political process would be better today if more people did business like Bob Dole did,” Demers added.

Bass says Dole’s greatest moment of leadership was when he brought an end to the government shutdowns imposed by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995. At the time, the GOP base praised the new House leadership for being aggressive. But in retrospect, it’s widely agreed to be a blunder that helped President Bill Clinton hold onto the White House in 1996.

“In my opinion, it was Bob Dole’s shining moment, bringing that second shutdown to an end. The House side didn’t like it, but Dole did it, not because it was the Republican or Democratic thing to do, but because he knew it had to be done,” Bass said.

For Rath, it was Dole’s service that made the biggest mark.

“Bob Dole was an American patriot in the fullest sense possible. He served with honor and with courage. It was a privilege to have worked for him. His was a life of service and decency. Watching him tie his necktie was a reminder that freedom is not free,” Rath said.

Yang: Of Course Out-Of-State College Students Want to Vote in New Hampshire

Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang understands that out-of-state college students have used New Hampshire’s lax voter residency laws to cast ballots in the Granite State. He just doesn’t understand why some people think that’s a bad thing.

“If you’re here in New Hampshire, you know this is the center of the political world, right? And so it’d be very natural for our college students here to say, ‘Hey, I’d like to have my voice heard,'” Yang told NHJournal. “And if you make it harder for them, then you’re sending the wrong message.”

Yang says he opposes New Hampshire’s recently passed voting regulations that require people to be legal residents — as opposed to merely temporarily domiciled here — if they want to vote in the state’s elections. “New Hampshire should be making it easier and not harder for [out-of-state] college students to vote.”

New Hampshire has the highest percentage of college students per capita in the country, and progressive campus groups have publicly bragged about their ability to mobilize these students — many legal residents of other states — to sway elections in the past. For example, the campus group NextGen America (founded by 2020 contender Tom Steyer) says they increased turnout in their targeted college precincts in 2016 by more than the margin of victory for Democrat Maggie Hassan over incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

Given that Trump lost New Hampshire that year by less than 3,000 votes, some New Hampshire residents don’t want the state’s Electoral College votes to be controlled by temporary residents of the Granite State. There are also complaints by long-term residents about the impact of these out-of-state student voters on local elections, too.

Yang rejects these criticisms. “I would argue that the local New Hampshire voters are helped, not hurt, by having more people participate in the process here. It doesn’t dilute their votes. It’s the opposite. If you have young people in the state excited about the candidates, then they’ll spread the word through social media and other means. These are all very positive things.”

 

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang shoots hoops with students at Concord (N.H.) High School on January 2, 2020.

 

Yang made his comments at a campaign stop in Concord, NH, on Thursday, after shooting hoops with Concord High students as part of a campaign tour across the Granite State. In addition to lower residency standards in New Hampshire, Yang touted his support for allowing 16-year-olds to vote.

“We have 16-year-olds paying taxes,” Yang said. “And it’s only fair that they should know where their taxes are going. And studies have shown that when you vote young, you’re more likely to become a lifelong voter, which we should be encouraging. Right now, high school students look at our politics and don’t feel that it’s relevant to them in part because they can’t participate.

“So if you had the voting age at 16, you would have every high school in the country actually engage with our democracy. And that’d be positive,” Yang said.

Yang isn’t the only Democrat who feels this way. “I myself have always been for lowering the voting age to 16…I think it’s really important to capture kids when they’re in high school,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last year.

 

Appealing to young voters has paid off for the once-unknown tech entrepreneur. Though he continues to poll in single digits, he’s received enough support to make the Democratic debate stage in December — something experienced politicians like Sens. Cory Booker and Michael Bennet were unable to do. And Yang still has a shot at qualifying for the January debate in Iowa.

Yang’s managed to pull ahead of these pols thanks in large part to his support from younger voters, particularly those 18-29-year-olds. According to a Morning Consult poll in December, Yang is in fourth place among these voters at 9 percent. And he’s getting a larger share of his support from voters under 45 than anyone else in the field.

So catering to college students and teenagers may be a smart, short-term strategy for Yang, but it presents challenges in the long run.

For example, his plan to let 16-year-olds pick a future president is wildly unpopular with voters overall, with multiple polls showing 75 percentor more — of Americans oppose the idea. It’s also out of step with moves across country to restrict the choices people under 21 can legally make, such as smoking cigarettes or vaping. When asked about this dichotomy, Yang insisted that 16-year-olds are adult enough to vote.

“You could argue that 16-year-olds don’t understand enough to vote. But that argument rings false to me when I actually interact with them, many of whom are very savvy and understand what’s going on around them,” Yang said. “And the fact is we’re not springing pop quizzes on voters when they show up to vote.

“We need to trust our people. And that includes our young people,” Yang said.

Omar to Keynote NH Young Democrats’ Event, Despite History of Anti-Semitism

One of the speakers scheduled to appear at a New Hampshire Young Democrats event in Manchester Friday night is best known for speaking out about Israel, foreign policy and the Jews. And not in a good way.

For reasons unknown — the NH Young Democrats have declined multiple requests for comment — notorious Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar will be one of the keynote speakers at their Granite Slate Awards event, campaigning on behalf of fellow progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Omar has been a member of Congress for less than two years, and already she’s been pressured into making repeated public apologies for comments her fellow Democrats describe as “vile, anti-Semitic slurs.” Her insults toward Jews have been so offensive that House Democrats drafted a resolution condemning her anti-Semitism specifically, until pressure from progressives inside her party forced Speaker Nancy Pelosi to replace it with a watered-down version condemning hate in general.

“While we commend Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to bring to the floor the issue of anti-Semitism within its ranks, the politically expedient resolution failed to call out Representative Omar by name,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement afterward.

Among Rep. Omar’s most notorious anti-Semitic statements:

  • “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
  • “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” explaining that American politicians’ support for Israel is motivated by Jewish money.
  • Suggesting that American Jews have a dual loyalty to both the U.S. and Israel and their commitment to America is therefore questionable.

“This accusation that Jews have a dual loyalty or require people to pledge allegiance to a foreign power, it is an anti-Semitic charge that has been used against the Jewish people literally for hundreds of years, long before there was a state of Israel,” said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

And just weeks ago, Omar was embroiled in another controversy over a tweet that appeared to imply businessman Leon Cooperman’s support for presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is based on the fact that they’re both Jewish.

Now, thanks to the New Hampshire Young Democrats and Senator Sanders, young Granite State progressives will get to hear Omar’s sparkling insights, up close and personal, in Manchester.

Sanders’ willingness to embrace progressives with anti-Israel, and sometimes anti-Semitic, views is not new. Just days ago, he was forced to fire a new staffer when his anti-Semitic tweets about “Jew money” were discovered, and several members of Sanders’ senior staff have been embroiled in controversies regarding Israel and anti-Semitism.

“Bernie Sanders should know better: Omar’s anti-Semitic and insensitive language does not reflect the values of Granite Staters, or the vast majority of Americans.  Bernie and Omar’s shared socialist pipe dream is sure to further solidify Granite Staters support for President Trump and Republicans across the state,” Republican National Committee Spokesperson Nina McLaughlin told NHJournal.

So why are the NH Young Democrats embracing a divisive figure like Omar? It certainly doesn’t fit in with their mission as New Hampshire’s official chapter of the Young Democrats of America.

“Our membership reflects the broad diversity of our nation and the Democratic Party,” the organization claims. “Acceptance of diverse viewpoints is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy.”

The YDA’s platform even includes a declaration on behalf of “Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish Democratic state,” which is ironic given the number of events Rep. Omar has attended with crowds shouting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a not-so-subtle call for the destruction of Israel.

The NH Young Democrats have offered no explanation of how Rep. Omar’s standing as an outspoken opponent of Israel fits in with the values of this local Democratic organization. And no elected NH Democratic officials have spoken out publicly about Omar’s attendance at the Granite Slate Awards. In fact, NH Senate Majority Leader (and 2020 candidate for governor) Sen. Dan Feltes sent out an email Wednesday urging Granite State Democrats to “get your tickets now” for the event.

In March, when the House was debating Omar’s anti-Semitic comments, not one of New Hampshire’s four Democratic members of Congress would condemn her offensive remarks. Several members of the Granite State’s Jewish community did speak out, however.

“I think Omar’s comments were anti-Semitic and I think they were unacceptable,” former N.H. Congressman Paul Hodes told NHJournal. “Had I been a member of Congress, I think –I hope– that I would have been clear in rejecting anti-Semitic comments and holding the speaker accountable.” Hodes was the first Jewish member of the House of Representatives elected from New Hampshire.

Rabbi Boaz D. Heilman of Temple B’nai Israel in Laconia, N.H. was more direct: “All I can say is that Rep. Omar’s comments were anti-Semitic, and that silence is wrong.”

NH Democrats Want Tulsi Gabbard to Vote for Herself in FITN Primary

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is so committed to winning the New Hampshire primary that she’s moved to the Granite State, renting a house in Goffstown, N.H.  Now that she’s moved in, the question has arisen: Should she be able to vote for herself here, too?

According to the New Hampshire ACLU, the state Democratic Party, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and — oddly enough — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the answer appears to be yes.  Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii should be able to cast a vote in the New Hampshire presidential primary.

In 2018 when Republicans still controlled the state legislature, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a voting reform bill into law that specifically declared voters must be residents of New Hampshire, as opposed to merely “domiciled” here. “New Hampshire now aligns with virtually every other state in requiring residency in order to vote,” Sununu said in defense of the legislation.

As a result, people who are domiciled in New Hampshire — students, temporary workers, 2020 Democratic presidential candidates — must take actions to indicate actual residency, like getting a New Hampshire driver’s license or registering a car. Which means that, under current law, Rep. Gabbard wouldn’t be able to vote in the First in the Nation primary in February.

But what happens if the ACLU of New Hampshire, with the support of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and most of the 2020 presidential field, is able to get the law overturned? Could Tulsi vote “Gabbard 2020” in Goffstown?

“Yes,” says Republican state Rep. Barbara Griffin, “And I hope if she does, she votes for me, too!”

Griffin, one of the key supporters of the voting reform efforts, represents Gabbard’s new home/residence/domicile in the state legislature. “She’s got a lease agreement and a phone number. Under the old law, that’s all she would need.”

To some — particularly actual New Hampshire residents who own homes and pay local taxes and don’t want non-residents picking their city councilors or members of Congress — the idea of a congresswoman who currently represents a district seven time zones away voting in a New Hampshire election may sound crazy.  Is this really what the ACLU and progressive activists fighting to change the law want?

The ACLU-NH declined repeated requests for comment and refused to answer any direct questions about Gabbard’s voting eligibility. Sen. Shaheen, who urged every 2020 Democratic candidate to publicly oppose the new Granite State law, also declined to say whether she supports allowing Gabbard to legally vote for herself here.

Multiple sources inside state government who deal directly with voter eligibility and the new law told NHJournal that while there are legitimate questions about Gabbard’s voter status in New Hampshire, she almost certainly would have been allowed to vote legally under the old system.

“A person in [Rep. Gabbard’s] situation would not have been turned away,” one source told NHJournal.

It’s also worth noting that in Gabbard’s home state, would-be voters must pass a “residency” test as well. “The residence stated by the applicant cannot simply be because of their presence in the State, but that the residence was acquired with the intent to make Hawaii the person’s legal residence with all the accompanying obligations therein,” according to the state of Hawaii’s election’s office. Anyone making that claim falsely “may be guilty of a Class C felony.”

Why would New Hampshire, with the highest percentage of college students per capita in the U.S., want lower standards for voter residency than an island state in the South Pacific?

Unfortunately for the ACLU-NH (and, theoretically, Rep. Gabbard), that’s unlikely to happen. Last month, a federal judge refused the ACLU-NH’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the law from being in effect for the First in the Nation primary on February 11.

For her part, Rep. Griffin says she has no problem with Gabbard voting in the #FITN primary–as long as she does it legally.

“Just register your car here in our town within 60 days,” she requests. “That’s more tax revenue for my town!”

Relax, New Hampshire–Liz Warren Is On Her Way!

The NHDems have announced that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is scheduled to keynote the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club dinner on Feb. 22.

“We are pleased that Senator Elizabeth Warren will join our 60th annual McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club event,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley. “Senator Warren has long been an ardent supporter of New Hampshire Democrats.”

Sen. Warren’s coming off a good weekend in Iowa–a much-needed bump to her candidacy which many insiders have said is otherwise off to a shaky start. Warren has consistently underperformed in polls of Democrats as a whole and progressives in particular. In addition, Warren’s one of the few high-profile Dem 2020 candidates who’s underwater with voters as a whole.

“The 100 Club event is an excellent opportunity to get ni front of large gathering of NH activists and voters,” Democratic strategist Jim Demers told NHJournal.  “Coming from Massachusetts, the crowd will even bigger than usual because she ban bring supporters from across the border. I expect the dinner to be a big success for the state party.”

Grabbing this high-profile platform–where she will be the only 2020 contender on the stage– is more than a boon to just Warren and the NHDem’s coffers. It’s also a lost opportunity to other potential candidates, in particular fellow progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders. They are expected to wage a Battle Royale for their border-state voters.

Warren donated $5,000 to every state party in the US last year, and she sent two staffers to work for the NHDem party. Sen. Kamala Harris gave $25,000 to the state party and reports are that Sen. Cory Booker gave some $170,000 to various New Hampshire Democratic candidates and causes in the 2018 cycle.

One NHDem insider told NHJournal “The candidate who wants these slots most usually gets them.”

Warren definitely wanted–and needed–this event.

As a “NH Neighbor,” Liz Warren Enters POTUS Race as a Candidate On the Cusp

As she announces her decision to launch a formal exploratory committee for a 2020 POTUS bid, “Senator Warren is a candidate on the cusp,” according to a prominent Massachusetts-based pollster.

“In many ways she’s a candidate in-between,” David Paleologos tells InsideSources. Paleologos is director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.  “Warren’s definitely a viable candidate, no doubt about that. But she’s neither a top-tier candidate nor a long shot. She’s not a new face, but she’s not an old hand like [former VP Joe] Biden or [Sen. Bernie] Sanders, either.  She’s on the cusp in many ways.”

While the 69-year-old Massachusetts senator’s announcement has been long expected, the timing–on New Years Eve, and early in the cycle while other big names remain on the sidelines–is somewhat surprising. Traditionally, top-tier candidates tend to sit and wait, attempting to build up some drama before the big announcement. Warren’s decision to jump in early may be her campaign acknowledging their back-of-the-pack position.

“Her decision to enter early is clearly an acknowledgment that she has considerable work to do with early state voters (and major donors) to repair the self-inflicted damage of her attempt to put the Native American question behind her,” says CNN’s Chris Cillizza. 

Joel Payne, a DC-based Democratic strategist who advised the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, agrees that Warren’s early negatives could be a problem.   “While people point to the Native American heritage uproar,  I think the biggest danger to her candidacy is her high name ID because many voters may already have hardened opinions about her,” he told InsideSources.

And in a series of polls over the past month, those opinions among Democrats aren’t great for Senator Warren. As InsideSources has previously reported, Warren has consistently been out of the top tier of polling among Democrats, behind candidates like Biden, Bernie Sanders and Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke.  In the most recent CNN poll, Warren was the only major Democratic candidate whose approval was underwater (negatives higher than her positives) at 30 percent approve, 32 percent disapprove.  Sen. Sanders, on the other hand, was at 51/35 percent and Joe Biden was at 54/29 percent approval/disapprove.

According to Paleologos, the top tier of candidates is “I don’t know yet” and Joe Biden, with a second-tier that includes Biden, Beto, California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey’s Sen. Cory Booker. “Warren’s in the third tier–another reason she couldn’t afford to wait,” Paleologos said.

This early in the race, Warren’s sagging support among progressives is her biggest challenge. Progressive activists who traditionally energize and deliver voters in primaries have plenty of choices in 2020 (as opposed to 2016 or 2008), and they’ve yet to rally around Liz Warren. Two straw polls of progressive organizations, MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, both find Warren trailing the “Three A-Bee-gos,” Biden, Bernie and Beto.  In the DFA straw poll, she’s in fourth place at 8 percent and in the MoveOn poll (the same group that spend about $1 million on the #DraftWarren movement four years ago) she’s in fifth place at 7 percent.

According to the latest Suffolk poll, American’s top wish for Washington, DC is for politicians to work together (29 percent) far higher than more divisive issues like impeaching President Trump (9 percent). That may not bode well for a candidate best known for battling with the president.

Paleologos also notes a Suffolk poll of her own constituents in deep-blue Massachusetts earlier this year that found 58 percent of Bay Staters didn’t want her to run for POTUS in 2020.  The fact that she’s essentially announced her candidacy even before she’s been sworn in to the new US Senate term local voters just gave her shows how concerned her campaign is about their current position in the polls.

“By announcing now, she’s saying ‘I’m serious. I’m in it to win it.’ It shows that she sees a path to victory,” Paleologos said. And that path goes right through New Hampshire.

Jim Demers, a key New Hampshire Democrat, told InsideSources: “As a neighbor, New Hampshire is a must-win state for Senator Warren. Getting in early helps insure she will be in every news story in the coming weeks.” Demers, who’s backing Cory Booker, believes that “the New Hampshire primary is wide open.”

Payne believes Sen. Warren’s hopes could possibly ride on New Hampshire as “her firewall…given its proximity to Massachusetts,” while Paleologos predicts Warren will “play the home girl–twice.”

“First she’ll go to Iowa as the ‘Sooner Sister,’ the fellow Midwesterner running in the caucuses. Then she’ll morph into the ‘New Hampshire Neighbor’ from Massachusetts. After that, she’ll have to hope that some of her fellow progressives have dropped out by the time she gets to South Carolina.”

 

Warren’s campaign video, also released on New Year’s Eve, certainly highlighted her Oklahoma roots more than she has in the past.  Warren also goes out of her way in the video to attack Ronald Reagan–an interesting decision given that the Gipper’s approval rating among Americans in 2018 was 72 percent.

Fairly or unfairly, Warren continues to struggle with the #Fauxcahontas scandal, a story that many on the Left say has hurt her far more than originally realized. “There just aren’t a lot of Democrats talking about Liz Warren at the top of their list,” one New Hampshire Democratic activist told InsideSources after her announcement. “She’s just not generating much excitement.”

Still, progressives have hardly turned their back on Warren. “Senator Elizabeth Warren’s formal entrance into the 2020 race for President today helps launch what we believe will be a vibrant discussion of bold, inclusive populist ideas in the Democratic Primary, and we look forward to the wide array of progressive candidates that we expect to join her in it in the year ahead,” Charles Chamberlain, Executive Director of Democracy for America told InsideSources in a statement.

Another Progressive Straw Poll Puts “Three B’s” at Top of 2020 Democratic Pack

In post-midterms America, the Democratic Party is all about the “B’s”– Bernie, Biden and Beto.

A new straw poll by the progressive political action committee Democracy for America gives Sen. Bernie Sanders a big lead among its supporters, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the second and third spots. And, once again, Sen. Elizabeth Warren lags well behind.

Vermont progressive Bernie Sanders topped with list with 36 percent, followed by Biden at 15 percent and O’Rourke–the Left’s flavor-of-the-month–at 12 percent. Sen. Warren was in fourth place with just 8 percent of DFA’s support, narrowly edging out California Sen. Kamala Harris at 7 percent.

“Let’s be clear: Progressive support in the 2020 Democratic primary is up for grabs and so is Democracy for America’s endorsement,” said DFA’s incoming chairman Charles Chamberlain, in a statement released to Politico.  “Unlike 2016, no candidate has support strong enough for the Democratic Party establishment to clear the field, which means progressives will have an excellent opportunity over the next year to kick the tires on a wide range of different candidates and find the best one to take on Trump.”

DFA, an organization founded by progressive Howard Dean, endorsed Sanders in the heated 2016 Democratic POTUS primary, so it’s no surprise that he’s the top choice of their membership.  However, the fact that a series of polls–both among progressives and Democrats as a whole–put the same three candidates in the top tier gives a good indication of how likely primary voters view the current field of contenders.

And perhaps most significant, one-time front-runner Elizabeth Warren doesn’t crack the top three in any of these surveys.

For example, last week the progressive activist group MoveOn.org released the results of their own straw poll. Beto was on top, with Biden and Bernie close behind. Warren trailed Harris and came in fifth. Similarly, a national poll of Democrats released by CNN over the weekend put Biden at top, followed by Bernie and Beto, with Sen. Warren in seventh place and just 3 percent support.

Pollsters and political pros all agree that polling and surveys two year ahead of the general election are far too early to be significant. The consensus, rather, is that there is no consensus.

“There is no frontrunner there,” pollster Frank Luntz said on Fox News. “There are twice as many candidates they may run for the Democrats this time as ran for the Republicans two years ago.”

Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner argues that the strong performance by Beto O’Rourke is less a reflection of the Texas Democrat’s strength than the weakness of the field overall. “The fact that O’Rourke, without doing much, could leapfrog all of the other candidates who had been clearly positioning themselves to run for years, suggests that none of the Democratic candidates enter the race in a particularly strong position,” Klein writes.

And despite his consistently strong showing in these surveys, Joe Biden insists he won’t make his decision to run based on the polls.

“I don’t think about the polling data,” Biden told CBS News. “I think about whether or not I should run based on very private decisions relating to my family and the loss of my son and what I want to do with the rest of my life. But I don’t think of it in terms of can I win, can I – will I lose. That’s not part of the calculation.”

NH Republicans To Propose Rule Change Allowing Party to Back Trump in 2020 Primary

It’s official: Republican Bruce Breton, a Windham, NH selectman and enthusiastic member of the Trump 2016 campaign team, will proposa a change in the New Hampshire GOP party bylaws allowing party officials to support President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

“This is a fatal flaw in our bylaws that keeps party officials from supporting our party’s president. It’s ridiculous,” Bretton told NHJournal.

“History shows that when Republicans don’t back the incumbent, we lose the seat. We saw it in 1992. We work so hard as a party to secure the presidency–then we’re not going to support our president?”

NH state Rep. Fred Doucette, a member of the incoming House GOP leadership and New Hampshire co-chair of Trump for President, agrees.  “It’s just common sense. If our party doesn’t unite, if we don’t all pull together, we lose.”

At the Rockingham GOP County Caucus on December 6 (left to right): Steve Stepanek, Bruce Breton. Gov. Chris Sununu, Rep. Fred Doucette, Rep. Al Baldasaro.

 

“I was at the bottom of the escalator in New York when he came down and announced his presidency, and I took a lot of abuse during the campaign. But he won, and he’s doing exactly what we elected him to do. President Trump deserves our support.”

Both Breton and Doucette told NHJournal they were still working on the best way to bring the rule change about, possibly during the GOP state convention in the spring. “It probably can’t happen [at the NHGOP convention] in January, but we could have a vote on a change in bylaws in the spring. Or there might be some other way to accomplish the same thing. We’re not sure. We’re just having a discussion,” Doucette said.

Breton says he brought up the idea at the Rockingham County Republican Committee Caucus earlier this month and “there was tons of support. I was really surprised. The ‘Never Trumpers’ don’t like it, but the grassroots love it,” Breton said.

Breton is right about the divide in the party. Prominent conservative Trump opponent Bill Kristol tells NHJournal:

“Trump is wrong to threaten the integrity of New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Republican primary. But he and his supporters wouldn’t head down this disreputable path if they weren’t worried. What are they worried about? They’re worried about free and fair competition on a level playing field. They’re worried about Granite Staters making up their own minds and deciding for themselves, as they’ve always done.”

The current frontrunner to become the new NHGOP chairman in January, Trump backer Steve Stepanek, has already declared that he would remain neutral in the 2020 primary if elected chair. “Where the party needs to be neutral, I will be neutral,” Stepanek says.

But will it even happen?  Local GOP strategist Tom Rath told Politico it’s “all talk,” and even strong Trump supporter Rep. Al Baldasaro tells NHJournal  “I don’t support a rule change.”

Other Republicans, like local GOP strategist Dave Carney, are more concerned about the impact of an “endorse the incumbent” policy on New Hampshire’s “First In The Nation” primary.  Carney, like many Granite State Republicans, believes the state’s #FITN status narrowly missed a major blow when longtime Secretary of State–and aggressively non-partisan Democrat–Bill Gardner was re-elected earlier this month by a one-vote margin in the legislature. They’re concerned that other states might use the perception of a rigged primary as leverage to bump the Granite State from the front of the line.

“People in New Hampshire don’t realize just how endangered our primary is,” Carney told NHJournal.

Doucette rejects the description of his proposal as “rigging.”

Are all 50 state party’s neutral? Do they all have a policy against endorsing?  This is just an idea we’re discussing, and right away the RINOs are trying to rock the boat,” Doucette said. “We’re Republicans. We should all be supporting our president. He deserves it.”

GOP Insiders Warn Dems Over Secretary Of State Vote: Your Partisan Today, Ours Tomorrow

“If Democrats pick Colin Van Ostern today, they are voting to elect Secretary of State [Bill] O’Brien tomorrow.”

That’s the warning of one longtime New Hampshire politico to NHJournal.com regarding Tuesday’s legislative vote for Secretary of State. Once Democrats turn the job into a plum gig for loyal partisans, it will never go back.

This is the sentiment many NH political activists and observers expressed to NHJournal as the Secretary of State election approaches.

“I hate to be alarmist, but I really believe that if New Hampshire loses its place as the ‘First in the Nation’ primary, America loses something. And if New Hampshire loses our reputation for having an even-handed, non-partisan Secretary of State, we will be in real danger of losing that primary.”

So says political consultant Josh McElveen, who has been pointing out the dangers posed by Colin Van Ostern’s openly-partisan advocacy for the office. He’s organizing a rally on Monday morning at 10:30am outside the LLB in Concord to remind legislators of what is at stake.

“If we have a Secretary of State with a partisan agenda, one who’s raised more than $250,000 dollars from partisan sources—people who gave that money with some sort of expectations—those outside of New Hampshire who want to take away our ‘First in the Nation’ status will use that against us,” McElveen told NHJournal.

Many Democrats reject the argument that electing Van Ostern in any way endangers New Hampshire’s place on the primary calendar. “Gardner did not create NH’s reputation as a state where anyone can run for President and launch a national campaign,” former New Hampshire state rep and outspoken Democratic activist Judy Reardon tweeted. “See primaries before he became SoS – 1968 (McCarthy) and 1972 (McGovern) for example.”

But the argument against Van Ostern isn’t that he’s a Democrat—Gardner is, too. Instead, the concern is over the fact that Van Ostern is a partisan political activist who was his party’s nominee for governor in 2016 and is widely expected to run for elective office in the future.

“I have kept my pledge not to use this office as a stepping stone. I’ve never run for office and I never would,” Secretary Gardner told NHJournal. “My opponent has only pledged not to run ‘in 2020.’”

At the Union-Leader, Kevin Landrigan reminds readers that Van Ostern began his campaign for the Secretary of State’s job with a pledge to “do everything in my power to help elect a legislative majority in support of [his] platform. I intend to recruit and campaign and raise money for these candidates,” Van Ostern said at the time.

He soon backed away from that pledge, but as Landrigan reports, his allies and former aides stepped up and money flowed to Democratic legislative candidates, anyway. This is hardly a surprise given Van Ostern’s background as a political operative.

Notably absent are New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate Democrats, neither of whom have endorsed Van Ostern for Secretary of State despite supporting his previous candidacies.

“This is a matter for the Legislature to decide,” Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a statement, while a spokesperson for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office simply said she “is not getting involved in the race.”

“If the Secretary of State’s job devolves into a partisan political office with partisan practices like fundraising and campaigning, it will never go back,” McElveen said.

A Republican state house insider had a similar message for NHJournal: “How many times have the Democrats had control of the legislature? Something like less than 10% of the last 100 years. A vote for Van Ostern now is a vote for a hardcore conservative in 2020 when the GOP takes over the legislature.”

And another GOP activist put it even more bluntly: “They have no idea what they’re going to unleash. What—do they think we’re going to watch them elect someone like Van Ostern, and then when we take back the House, we’ll bring Billy [Gardner] out of retirement?”

A GOP majority in 2020 is hardly a certainty. What is all but certain, however, is that there will be a Republican legislative majority in the New Hampshire General Court again. And if history is any guide, in the near future.

Democrats may want to keep that in mind as they cast their votes on Tuesday.