This is a special Friday edition of Granite Reports.
FRIDAY, FEB. 6: FRANK GUINTA, GOP PRIZE? U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta is not generally regarded as a juggernaut when it comes to his campaign organization. But a closer look shows that the conventional wisdom is wrong.
When Republican presidential candidates begin looking around for endorsements in the state, Sen. Kelly Ayotte will be the first name they think of. And rightly so.
But Guinta, coming off of his 2014 victory over Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, is underrated and would be quite a key ally for any GOP presidential hopeful.
Guinta told the National Journal earlier this week he has met or spoken to no fewer than seven likely GOP presidential candidates – Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, George Pataki and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who – according to the report – he “singled out as someone who has impressed him.”
Why would it be to the advantage of Fiorina – or any candidate – to have Frank Guinta on his or her team?
Consider that Guinta led not only all Republicans in 1st Congressional District votes in November, but also outpolled victorious Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan in his district.
Guinta received 125,508 votes, while Shea-Porter received 116,769.
Among other Republicans, Brown received 123,000, while Walt Havenstein received 119,870 in the 1st CD.
Meanwhile, Shaheen received 120,670 votes in the 1st District, while Hassan received 124,087. Both, of course, live in the district.
A Guinta adviser says Guinta outpolled the popular Brown, Shaheen and Hassan not because it was a Republican year – because it wasn’t a slam-dunk Republican year in New Hampshire. The adviser says Guitna won because of a “relentless focus on data, identifying target towns and votes and then turning them out.”
Even though there is always drop off from the top of the ticket, the numbers show that there were a number of voters who chose Hassan, and then Shaheen – and then Guinta.
Guinta out-performed the top of the GOP ticket in Manchester, losing by 3.5 percent to Shea-Porter, and mitigated its loss in historically Democratic Strafford County and winning by big margins in Belknap, Carroll and Rockingham counties.
Guinta’s operation targeted specific issues in specific areas – his support for federal low-income fuel assistance (LIHEAP) in Carroll County, for instance. The Great Bay estuary in Strafford County.
What does this have to do with the 2016 presidential primary. Just this: Having Guinta’s ground operation on your side will be a huge advantage in the 1st District, but it could be expanded to the 2nd District as well.
It would be particularly advantageous for a candidate with relatively little money or one who is viewed as an outsider. Even in this era of big money and the endless television advertising, a ground game still matters in New Hampshire, and not only would Guinta’s endorsement carry the weight of a U.S. congressman, but it also brings with it an organization that has performed well in tight elections.
Said Guinta campaign senior adviser Ethan Zorfas: “Despite being outspent in both the primary and general elections, Guinta’s emphasis on building a fountain of door knockers, phone bankers and directs to voter contacts allowed him to be successful. That network of doers will be key to any presidential in what is shaping up a very competitive race.”
SPEAKING OF THE FIRST DISTRICT….. November 2016 is a very long way off, but right now in the Democratic Party there are discussions underway about potential opponents for Guinta.
There are discussions underway about a possible draft effort for Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, who has an important base in Manchester and the rest of his council district. And Shea-Porter is believed to be looking seriously another run. Speaking of grassroots armies, despite her loss last November, she would be formidable as well especially in a presidential year.
And we have written about Shawn O’Connor, but Bedford businessman who is the subject of a fledgling draft effort.
It’s early, as we said. But this will be developing under the radar as the presidential primary campaign rages, and once it’s over just more than a year from now, it will be interesting to see who will be the first to make a very public move toward the Democratic nomination.
WALKER SURGING? It looks like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the current GOP flavor of the month as the New Hampshire primary campaign begins to ramp up.
According to an NH1 Pulse Poll released Wednesday had Walker with the support of 21.2 percent of likely GOP primary voters, ahead of Jeb Bush, with 14.4 percent. A Gravis Marketing poll on Thursday showed Walker with 23 percent and Bush with 16 percent.
But a WMUR poll released on Thursday night told a bit of a different story. It had Jeb Bush with 17 percent and Walker with 12 percent.
Both the WMUR and Gravis poll had Hillary Clinton far ahead on the Democratic side. The NH1 poll was Republican-only.
_ Mitt Romney will make a “comeback” in New Hampshire but not as a presidential candidate. He will deliver the commencement address at Saint Anselm College on May 17.
_ Gov. Maggie Hassan will be the keynote speaker at the America Votes’ State Summit on Feb. 23 and 24 in Washington. The group calls its summit “a staple in progressive organizing since 2009, attracting over 400 attendees from across the country including in-state experts, national political strategists, funders and organizational allies.”
(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political reporter/columnist in New Hampshire. He has been reporting on Granite State politics since 1980. Watch for updates of his Granite Reports column and of course separate stories on NHJournal.com as news breaks. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)