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Longtime Dem Marchand Busted by AG for Bogus Campaign Website

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office said Democrat Steve Marchand lied about his role in a political scheme targeting his opponents in Portsmouth.

Marchand, a progressive Democrat who once served as Portsmouth mayor and sought his party’s nomination for governor, will not face criminal charges, the office said in a letter. Instead, it issued a letter of warning to Marchand for his involvement in and other websites that targeted sitting city council members in the last municipal election.

“It’s pretty bad,” said Peter Whelan, one of the Portsmouth councilors targeted.

Whelan, Councilors Susan Paige Trace, Ester Kennedy, Greg Mahanna, Petra Huda, and Mayor Rick Becksted were all targeted by anonymous websites, fliers, and robotexts operated by Marchand, according to Myles Matteson with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

“It was shameful. There were robotexts sent by the thousands,” Whelan said.

Trace said the attorney general’s investigation revealed there was an effort to mislead the voters of Portsmouth.

“It’s about being transparent and behaving in an honorable manner,” Trace said.

All of the candidates targeted by Marchand were defeated. Current Portsmouth Mayor Deaglan McEachern declined to comment, as he had not seen Matteson’s letter.

“I didn’t have any interaction with the (Marchand) in my campaign,” McEachern said. “I have no idea what the former mayor was doing or not doing.”

Marchand did not respond to a request for comment. His attorney, Joseph Foster, is currently out of the country and unable to be reached.

Marchand’s bogus website was built to mirror a legitimate site with a similar name, Preserve Portsmouth, and purported to support the same city council candidates the original site endorsed. But it falsely described them as far-right Trump supporters. According to documents obtained by the Attorney General’s Office, Marchand wanted to depress voter turnout among Republicans in order to benefit Democrats on the ballot.

Marchand initially lied to investigator Anna Croteau when she questioned him about his part in the campaign, according to Mattson’s letter.

“When she first asked about, you stated that you had heard of the website. You denied you had ever claimed responsibility for the website but noted that other people had been saying you were responsible for it,” Matteson wrote.

However, Croteau already had screenshots of a text conversation in which Marchand took credit for the content of the websites.

“To be very clear, I am the one to create the content,” Marchand wrote.

Matteson’s letter states the Attorney General’s Office has records of Marchand’s communications with at least four other people about the campaign, in which he stated the goal was to create guilt by association aimed at the targeted candidates, linking them to Trump in the mind of Portsmouth voters.

“(i)s really meant to help get Democrats who gave Becksted and others a vote in 2019 to really think about what they are doing in 2021,” Marchand wrote.

Whelan suspects the true purpose of the campaign was to get rid of council members who oppose development in the historic sections of the city. Marchand’s record as mayor includes changing zoning ordinances to make development easier, Whelan said. Whelan wants to know who Marchand was working with and for, and who funded the operation.

“Somebody spent a lot of money to do this,” Whelan said.

The attorney general’s report found that while Marchand would have violated campaign finance law by not disclosing who was behind the websites, fliers, and robotexts if it could be proved that he acted in concert with others. However, Marchand claimed, eventually, that while he acted alone in creating the content he did not set up the websites. Matteson noted the claim he acted alone was the last of many explanations Marchand offered to investigators.

New Hampshire law on campaign finance transparency allows a narrow exemption for individuals engaged in advocacy. Marchand was cautioned, however, that if he continues to engage in similar campaigns he could lose the exemption and face possible prosecution.

Last year, Portsmouth Democrat Committee Chair Shanika Amarakoon and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley issued a statement condemning Marchand’s campaign.

“We cannot let our local elections be undermined by national-style political tactics. The city councilors who were attacked, after all, are our neighbors. While we may not agree with all of their decisions, they did not deserve this attack, and we do not stand for it,” Amarakoon and Buckley wrote.

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.



In NH-01, GOP Candidates Jockey for Inside Track on Trump Endorsement

In the First Congressional District GOP primary, the candidates have their eyes on the prize. Beating incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas? Not yet. The big prize in the primary is the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

“He’s still the guy, he still matters substantially. He’s still the leader of the Republican Party,” said Rep. Fred Doucette (R-Salem), Trump’s 2016 campaign state co-chair.

On Monday, candidate Gail Huff Brown announced her endorsement by Linda McMahon, best known for her role in creating the WWE empire. It’s a “get” for Huff Brown’s campaign because McMahon served as Trump’s Small Business Administrator.

“With Gail, New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District is in good hands. As a working mother and grandmother, she knows what it’s like to balance a family and a career,” McMahon said.

Huff Brown has previously been endorsed by K.T. McFarland, the Trump administration’s first Deputy National Security Advisor. McMahon’s backing gives her another connection with Trumpworld. And she’s likely to need it.

Huff Brown is in a battle with former Trump administration communications staffer Karoline Leavitt and former Trump State Department staffer Matt Mowers for the top spot in the primary. Trump endorsed Mowers in the 2020 NHGOP primary.

Leavitt has run hard on her Trump connections and continued loyalty to the former president, even denying Trump lost the 2020 election. When contacted Monday, she repeated the unfounded claim that Trump defeated Joe Biden.

“I am the only candidate who has the courage to say what the majority of Republican voters here in New Hampshire know – there is absolutely no way Joe Biden legitimately won more votes than Donald Trump,” Leavitt said. “Granite Staters want a homegrown fighter, and that is why I am in this race.”

Mowers said Monday he would love to get Trump’s endorsement yet again.

“I was honored to receive President Trump’s endorsement and to serve in his administration as Senior White House Advisor at the State Department where I implemented the America First agenda. I would proudly accept his endorsement again,” Mowers said. 

Huff Brown, on the other hand, has a far more tenuous Trump connection. She spent 30 years doing TV news, mostly in the Boston market. But she describes her more recent experience as “serving alongside her husband Scott Brown as President Donald Trump’s ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.”

Trump’s endorsement will be a game-changer for the primary race, Doucette said. However, he is skeptical Trump will weigh in, and he says his advice would be for Trump to stay out of the race for the time being.

“If I were to advise him, all three (Leavitt, Mowers, and Huff-Brown) are solid Trump people,” Doucette said. “How can you pit one against the other?”

Tom Rath, a longtime NHGOP strategist and a Trump skeptic, isn’t sure the former president’s endorsement would mean much in the race.

“This isn’t a state that typically puts a lot of stock in endorsements of candidates,” Rath said. “We like our candidates to be grounded in the districts in which they run.”

It’s hard to see a potential Trump endorsement coming in this race unless Trump sees an advantage for himself, Rath said. He sees a race that comes down to a contest between different shades of pro-Trump candidates, and there is unlikely to be an emergent centrist candidate who is anti-Trump.

And why would there? Polls show Trump remains popular among NHGOP voters, with a net +64 approval rating in October’s Granite State Poll from the UNH Survey Center. However, that same poll found Trump’s polling among all voters underwater with 57 percent of voters disapproving to 34 percent approving of the former president.

New England College Provost Dr. Wayne Lesperance said Trump’s endorsement is not going to move the needle for Huff Brown or Mowers voters, but it could help Leavitt, who polls show isn’t as well known as the other two.

“It will help one of the lesser-knowns the most if it came to them. But for a Mowers or Huff Brown it’s not impactful,” Lesperance said.

Trump’s record on endorsements is mixed at best. According to Politico, many in the GOP are frustrated with Trump’s endorsements, which seem based on whims rather than a coherent political strategy. And the candidates he’s backing this cycle have been struggling early.

“If he spent a little more time and resources vetting and researching where he can have an impact and a little bit less time s—-posting, he could actually help his own legacy and move the ball forward,” a Republican strategist told Politico.

Huff Brown has another problem positioning herself as the Trump favorite: Her husband’s denunciation of Trump’s behavior surrounding the January 6 Capitol riot.

“Absolutely, I mean he bears responsibility. I think his presidency was diminished as a result of this, and I think he’s paying a price. He’s been impeached twice. He was impeached for those actions,” Brown said in a May interview on CNN.

Asked about the impact Scott Brown’s comments might have, campaign spokesperson Nina McLaughlin told NHJournal: “Gail has been a long and strong supporter of President Trump. She worked hard for nearly four years to advance his America First agenda. She would welcome his endorsement.”

Rath said Trump has always operated based on personality, rather than any political ideology. While a Trump endorsement can bring a wealth of donors and support to the candidate who wins his favor, it can also backfire. If Democratic voters don’t have a primary race to worry about, Trump’s endorsement could cause problems for his candidate with New Hampshire’s open primary system.

“He might activate Democrats to vote in the GOP primary,” Rath said.

Team Trump Calls NHDems Hypocrites Over Mask Mandate Demands

New Hampshire Democrats greeted news of President Trump’s planned Saturday visit to Portsmouth with a demand: Mandate masks now. Everyone attending Trump’s rally must be required by Gov. Chris Sununu to wear a face mask.

Team Trump’s response: Where were these demands when these same Democrats were attending Black Lives Matter rallies across the state?

It didn’t take the two major Democratic candidates for governor long to throw down on the mask issue, or to link it back to their real target, Gov. Sununu.

“I’m calling on Gov. Chris Sununu to issue an order requiring social distancing and masks at the Portsmouth Trump rally,” state Sen. Dan Feltes tweeted Monday morning. “After Trump’s Tulsa rally, there was a sharp uptick in COVID cases. The public health of Granite Staters must take priority over politics.”



“Where is Gov. Chris Sununu?” Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky demanded via Twitter, adding:

“If Trump & Sununu refuse to put public health first, we must address out of state attendee risk, require masks, and ensure social distancing.”

NHJournal asked Volinsky what he meant by “addressing out of state attendee risk:” ID checks? Mandatory testing? Turning away out-of-state vehicles? He declined to respond.

Sununu released a statement Monday announcing he would be treating Trump’s event the same way he’s treated other political gatherings since the COVID-19 crisis began.

“As Governor, I will always welcome the President of the United States to New Hampshire. I am pleased to see the campaign will be handing out face masks and hand sanitizer to all attendees, as has been true at all public gatherings in NH where social distancing is hard to maintain. It is imperative that folks attending the rally wear masks,” Sununu said.

The statement from the governor’s office noted that “from the outset of this pandemic, the State has not stopped or prevented individuals from peacefully assembling, including marches led by Black Lives Matter and protests from Reopen NH.

“The Governor’s schedule is still being finalized. In the past, the Governor has greeted the President upon arrival at the airport. If the Governor greets the President at the airport, he will be wearing a mask,” according to the statement.

The Trump campaign responded to the Democrats’ complaints more aggressively, calling out what they perceive as hypocrisy from people demanding masks at Trump rallies just weeks after attending Black Lives Matter rallies with no mask mandate.

“When marauders destroy businesses and tear down statues, they don’t need masks. There is no concern about the spread of COVID-19,” Trump campaign strategist Corey Lewandowski told NHJournal. “But when Americans want to see the leader of the free world, a mask is a must? Hypocrites.

“One place the left doesn’t demand a mask is Joe Biden’s basement — where he remains hiding alone,” Lewandowski said.

Asked about the charge of hypocrisy, Feltes spokesperson Emma Sand told NHJournal:

“This will be by far the largest event and gathering since COVID-19 hit New Hampshire, and whether Gov. Sununu actually does a public health order, like he did for the upcoming NASCAR race, is the issue. At a minimum, he should issue a public health order for this event to protect lives and prevent an uptick in COVID-19 cases, not be cowed by Trump to fail to do his job”

Volinsky declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the debate rages over whether protests and political rallies have had a significant impact on COVID-19’s trajectory in recent weeks.

Despite the assumptions by Feltes and others, new positive tests in Oklahoma rose about 350 percent from June 1 until Trump’s rally on June 20, then by just 75 percent between rally day and July 4. In Tulsa County, officials said last week it was too early to make a determination about the impact of the Trump rally, and that the increased infections thus far had been traced to smaller gatherings at bars, gyms, and restaurants.

Meanwhile, supporters of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer have been pushing back for weeks against claims their gatherings created a risk of significant spread. But in recent days, the mayors of Los Angeles and Miami have both acknowledged these rallies likely played some role in the recent increase in cases.

And in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office revealed they instructed contact tracers tracking positive COVID tests not to ask if the infected person had attended a BLM protest.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe while respecting individual privacy,” said de Blasio spokeswoman Avery Cohen.

Team Trump tells NHJournal that Granite Staters are “ecstatic” to welcome President Trump back to New Hampshire.

“While encouraging safety measures for attendees, Saturday will be a celebration of President Trump’s ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept’ agenda, reminding voters that he is the only leader who can bring about the great American comeback,” said RNC spokesperson Nina McLaughlin. “The contrast between President Trump fighting for Granite Staters and Joe Biden hiding from them in his basement bunker couldn’t be clearer.”

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.

Why John Kasich’s New CNN Gig Is the End of His 2020 Candidacy

Tuesday night Gov. John Kasich was on the set of “Cuomo Primetime” with Chris Cuomo, a show that regularly features liberal commentators like Paul Begala, Sally Kohn and Bill Press. Their topic Tuesday night–and every night–is how horrible Donald Trump is and, by extension, how awful the Republican Party is.  Cuomo linked Trump to the “white nationalist” comments of Iowa Congressman Steve King and called him the most untrustworthy person in politics he’d ever seen. Kasich nodded, sighed and largely agreed.

It was the beginning of John Kasich’s career as a paid political analyst for CNN and the end of his campaign for president as a Republican.

Short of volunteering to testify at President Trump’s impeachment hearings, it’s hard to imagine anything the former Ohio governor could do that would damage his viability in the GOP more than going to work for CNN. He and his team must realize how much the Republican base reviles the network of Anderson Cooper and Jim Acosta.  Even MSNBC would be less damaging to Kasich with the GOP base because they view it as openly partisan and, therefore, accept its biases as fair play.

CNN, on the other hand, continually pushes the blatantly #FakeNew that it’s a nonpartisan news platform.  Given its overt, tireless anti-Trump bias (it was the home of Trump-decapitating comedian Kathy Griffin and anti-Trump obsessive Don Lemon) this claim of objectivity drives many conservatives crazy.

Plus–it’s Trump’s target number one.  And John Kasich, who ran for the GOP nomination just three years ago, chooses to go to work for them?  It’s a great way to give Trump the finger, but a lousy way to win the GOP nomination.

“Stick a fork in him, he’s done,” says GOP consultant and longtime NH player Dave Carney. “He’s a non-starter.”

Several other NHGOP politicos agreed. “I don’t know what he’s thinking,” one told NHJournal. “Even if he spends all his airtime bashing Trump instead of the GOP, Republican primary voters are going to hate him for it.”

They weren’t loving him before. A poll of Republicans last year gave Trump a 62-27 margin over Kasich in a primary. Which wouldn’t be so bad…except these were Ohio Republicans.

“Amongst Republicans in New Hampshire who would like to see a challenge to the president, John Kasich rates the highest,” Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics told WMUR-TV. “The problem is that he only rates at 9 percent, and the president has a solid 70 percent backing right now amongst Republicans.”

Still, John Kasich is slightly more popular than the Cable News Network.  When asked to name their most trusted news source, only 3 percent of Republicans named CNN.

A Republican activist told NHJournal “Being the Republican who hated Trump the most isn’t going to win you points among the base, even if Trump does crash and burn. ‘I told you so’ is rarely a winning message. Kasich will be in their face, every night on a network they hate, reminding them he’s not on their team. It might be good TV but it’s terrible politics.”

GOP Group Runs Ad in NH Urging Party to Keep Primary “Unrigged” in 2020

If you’re watching Fox and Friends tomorrow (Friday) morning, you may see the new ad from  Defending Democracy Together, a Republican advocacy organization founded by Bill Kristol, urging the NHGOP to maintain its neutral stance in any 2020 GOP POTUS primary.

“There has been chatter among New Hampshire Republicans calling for the elimination of the party’s neutrality requirement before presidential primaries, which would allow the state party to endorse President Trump against a potential primary challenger. A discussion is expected at the meeting at the end of the month,” the organization warns.

“We are running a commercial today and Friday during Fox and Friends in the Manchester media market urging the RNC not to rig the primary in Trump’s favor,” the organization said in a statement.


The original supporters of an NHGOP rule change, Rep. Fred Doucette and Windham, NH selectman Bruce Breton, told NHJournal last week they have no plans to present a proposal to change the party bylaws and allow NHGOP officials to publicly endorse candidates in party primaries. They didn’t submit such a change by the state party deadline that passed the first week in January.

Bill Kristol tells NHJournal that’s good news, but Defending Democracy Together is running the ad to bolster the idea of a wide-open primary as pressure from the Trump organization on GOP institutions rises.  He also notes that other states like South Carolina, along with the RNC don’t seem as dedicated to the tradition of open primaries as the Granite State.

“I feel much better about New Hampshire, actually,” Kristol said. “I’m confident the Republicans in New Hampshire–the home of the First In The Nation primary–aren’t going to let themselves be pushed around by Trump apparatchiks.”

On Border “Crisis” Question, Voters Side With Trump Over Democrats

On Tuesday night, Donald Trump took his battle for border wall funding to primetime TV, but Democrats refused to even acknowledge there was a border “crisis” to battle over.  In fact, listening to the three speakers, it was hard to tell they were discussing the same topic.

President Trump addressed the issue of the ongoing government shutdown briefly, but spent most of his time talking about the surge of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers crossing the borders, as well as the negative impacts of illegal immigration.

“In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings,” the president said. “Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders.

“In California, an Air Force veteran was raped, murdered and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading and dismembering his neighbor. In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors were arrested and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, on the other hand, made vague references to Democrats supporting border security while opposing what Schumer called an “ineffective, unnecessary border wall” and talking mostly about government workers and their families hurt by the shutdown.

“The fact is: President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation – many of them veterans,” Speaker Pelosi said.

“There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference. Federal workers are about to miss a paycheck. Some families can’t get a mortgage to buy a new home. Farmers and small businesses won’t get loans they desperately need,” added Sen. Schumer.

Liberal groups like the League of Women Voters joined in: “The real threat to the safety and security of Americans is the loss of paychecks for hundreds of thousands of hard-working public servants during the ongoing shutdown,” they said in a statement.

So who carried the day? “Judging by the comments from both sides, we’re no closer to ending this impasse,” Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies told InsideSources. Vaughan, who supports stricter immigration enforcement, said that Trump “did a good job promoting border security, but I wish he’d spent more time explaining why there’s a crisis.”

“As long as we have policies that allow people who make asylum claims–claims they know are almost certain to be rejected–to be released into the country if they have a child with them, we’re encouraging desperate people to risk the lives of children. That’s the ‘immoral’ part  that Speaker Pelosi won’t fix,” Vaughan said.

President Trump echoed that sentiment in what was probably the most memorable line of the evening:

“Some have suggested a barrier is immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is for the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.”

While President Trump and the Democrats mostly talked past each other, there was one clear area of disagreement. President Trump insists that there is, in fact, a “crisis” at the southern border, while both Pelosi and Schumer referred to it as Trump’s “manufactured crisis.”  Who’s right?

According to the Washington Post, “2,000 unauthorized migrants who are being taken into federal custody each day” at the Mexico border.  Another anti-Trump outlet, says: “More families crossed the US-Mexico border without papers in November 2018 than in any month since the Department of Homeland Security started tracking family apprehensions separately.”

But the final judgment belongs to the voters, and according to a Morning Consult poll released the day of the speech, they are with President Trump on the “crisis” question.  The poll found that 42 percent describe the current situation as a “crisis” and 37 percent say it’s “not a crisis but a problem,” while just 12 percent agree with the Democrats that there’s no problem at all.

“This is why Trump may have won the night. Democrats are still denying there’s a problem. Americans can see people rushing the border and climbing the fences, they see the coverage of the overcrowded border facilities. Of course there’s a problem–a major one,” Vaughan said.

His Anti-Trump Op-Ed Has NH Republicans Asking: What Does Mitt Want?

Soon-to-be Utah Senator Mitt Romney’s op-ed attack on President Donald Trump got a lot of attention, but it didn’t answer the key question: What does Mitt want?

“He doesn’t ‘want’ anything,” longtime Romney ally and advisor Jim Merrill told InsideSources on Wednesday. “He’s just doing what he thinks is right.”

Romney’s opinion piece in Wednesday’s Washington Post decried President Trump’s character (“presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring”) and Mitt pledged to “speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”  Tough talk–but what does it mean?

According to Romney, what it doesn’t mean a primary challenge. “No,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper who asked him about a 2020 POTUS run. “You may have heard I ran before. I’ve had that experience.”

So why release the op-ed?  It’s certainly not a message GOP voters–who still overwhelmingly support President Trump–want to hear. On talk radio Wednesday, callers from across the nation and from his former home state of Massachusetts expressed their anger with the 2012 GOP POTUS nominee. “He should be loyal to Trump–period!” one caller told national talk host Hugh Hewitt Wednesday morning. “Every Republican needs to support President Trump.”

On Boston’s WRKO, which serves vote-rich southern New Hampshire, a Republican called Romney a “two-faced, back-stabbing snake.”

Stephen Stepanek, the likely incoming NHGOP chairman, isn’t much kinder. “Trump is out fighting for Americans and Republicans like Mitt Romney aren’t standing with him like they should. When it gets nasty and the Democrats start attacking, they aren’t there in the trenches,” Stepanek told NHJournal.

“When the going gets tough, Mitt gets going,” Stepanek says.

Mitt has even annoyed some family members, with his niece (and GOP Chairwoman) Ronna Romney McDaniel tweeting: “For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive.”

Not that Romney’s prospects in a primary against Trump were strong before the Wednesday papers hit. In a Suffolk poll of New Hampshire voters released last May, Trump was handily beating Romney 63-28 percent, similar to his 66-23 percent margin over outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich, though better than the projected 72-15 percent beatdown he’d give former AZ Sen. Jeff Flake.

One theory is that Romney wants to establish himself as the leader–not just a member–of the loyal GOP opposition to Trumpism. One longtime GOP activist, however, told InsideSources that Romney wrote on the eve of his entrance in the US Senate in order to “get him in the conversation about 2020. He’s clearly got it on his mind.”

But as Merrill, a key GOP player in New Hampshire politics and longtime Romney ally, pointed out, Romney was already there.

“He doesn’t need to interject himself into the conversation, he’s already in that conversation.  Mitt Romney is a leader in the party and he’s going to be a leader in the Senate,” Merrill said. “When people start thinking about alternatives to President Trump, his name is always going to come up.

“Which is why calling Mitt a ‘freshman senator’ was so unnecessary. Nobody looks at Mitt Romney that way,” Merrill said.

For his part, President Trump doesn’t appear to be worried, quipping that “If he fought [President Obama in 2016] the way he fights me, I’m telling you, he would have won the election.” Trump pointed out that he endorsed Romney “and he thanked me profusely.” If there’s a potential political foe keeping Donald Trump awake at night, it’s not Mitt Romney.

So the question remains: What was the purpose for releasing the op-ed?  According to Ryan Williams of FP1 Strategies (and a former Romney spokesperson), it’s all about timing.

“Romney has said all these things about [Trump] before. The reason for writing this now is because December was a bad month for Donald Trump. Romney’s been looking for a big moment to speak out. This is the moment,” Williams said.

Both Williams and Merrill are actively involved in GOP politics and both reject the premise that the op-ed is related to a POTUS bid.  Instead, they told InsideSources they believe Romney’s primary motivation is to lay the groundwork for how he plans to work with the president in the future.

“Read that paragraph about how he would work with Trump like he would with any president, it’s all there,” Williams said. He also believes Romney’s op-ed avoided personal attacks on the president. “He wasn’t gratuitously attacking President Trump, he was pointing out how character effects our relationships with our allies, how willing people are to work with you on policy.”

The bottom line, according to Jim Merrill:  “Mitt Romney didn’t need a political motivation to write this. He was doing what he thought is the right thing.”

Gov. Sununu Says No To NHGOP Backing Trump in 2020 Primary

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who just survived a massive blue wave that handed control of the legislature to the Democrats, has announced he opposes a proposal to have the state party openly support President Trump in the 2020 primary.

A vocal group of Republicans, led by Trump supporters state Rep. Fred Doucette and Windham town selectman Bruce Breton, are promoting a rule change allowing state party officials to promote incumbent Republican presidents in the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation (FITN) primary.

“Whether it’s President Trump or President XYZ, it’s the same,” Doucette told NHJournal. “Republicans work too hard to win the White House to sit back whenever an incumbent Republican is being challenged.”

Gov. Sununu does not agree.

“Whether it’s a primary for the New Hampshire House or the White House, the New Hampshire State Republican Committee must remain neutral in primaries,” Gov. Sununu said in a statement released to NHJournal. “After hard-fought primaries, the State Party is the vehicle to unite Republicans, and that is hard to accomplish if they try and tilt the scales for any candidate.”

Gov. Sununu did not mention the other commonly-made argument against ending the NHGOP’s neutrality policy: The risk it might pose to New Hampshire’s precarious position at the front of the line in electoral politics.

“The key argument for allowing New Hampshire to go first is that we give every candidate–well funded or not, well known or not, incumbent or not–a fair shot to make their case,” Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey tells NHJournal.  “Requiring party leadership to remain neutral is the best evidence of this.”

“In fact, if we didn’t have the neutrality rule in 2016, Donald Trump might not have won New Hampshire. At the time, many voters weren’t even sure he was serious about his race,” Duprey added.

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