(This is a special Friday edition of Granite Reports.)
CULLEN CAUSES CONTROVERSY. Former NHGOP chairman Fergus Cullen is certainly entitled to his opinion about Ted Cruz, but current chair Jennifer Horn is likewise entitled to her opinion about Cullen’s verbal trashing of the Texas senator on Boston Herald radio on Thursday.
Horn tells Granite Reports it’s “unfortunate” and potentially harmful to the primary to have a former party official take apart a likely future Republican candidate for President, call him a “bomb-thrower” and say he represents “everything that is wrong with the Republican Party in Washington these days.”
Cruz, by the way, will be in New Hampshire on Sunday and Monday.
And Cullen is hosting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is at a meet and greet packed with GOP activists at his home Friday night.
Cullen told Boston Herald radio that while he will invite some other potential candidates to his home, “Ted Cruz is someone who will not darken our doorstep … He doesn’t seem to be very interested in campaigning to all of Americans but only seems to be interested in appealing to a fringe. I think he has been irresponsible in Washington and I think he is sort of everything that is wrong with the Republican Party in Washington these days — so he’s not welcome.”
Cullen went on, “If you just want to be a bomb-thrower, be a bomb-thrower but if you’re running for office and you’re serving in the United States Senate, I expect you to want to actually get things done and not just to be going from cable TV news appearance to speaking engagements across the country to rile people up without actually trying to do anything.”
Horn spotted the comments and told Granite Reports they were “unfortunate at best” and that Cullen “does not speak for the NHGOP. He speaks only for himself.”
“All candidates are welcome in New Hampshire,” Horn said. “In the tradition of the first-in-the-nation primary, I look forward to welcoming all Republicans, both candidates and activists, to the party. We are strongest when we respect our differences and stand together.”
Her approach is similar to her work last year to promote party unity, especially among the GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate. Eventually, Bob Smith, Jim Ruben and Scott Brown agreed to support the party’s nominee.
Cullen responded to Horn with a lengthy email to Granite Reports.
“Being state party chair is a tough job, and Jennifer is doing as well at it as one can reasonably expect. She has to stay neutral in the primary process, and I know from personal experience it can be hard to keep everyone happy,” he wrote.
But Cullen made it clear that he “didn’t say Senator Cruz isn’t welcome to campaign in New Hampshire. I just said he isn’t welcome in my house. I stand by my characterization that Senator Cruz represents everything that is wrong with Republicans in Washington. I think most voters want their elected officials to try to improve things and to get things done. Senator Cruz seems more interested in lobbing rhetorical grenades than accomplishing anything. To him, every other conservative is some sort of sell out. Only he is pure. I don’t appreciate his approach to politics or to governing.”
Cullen said he was impressed with Cruz when he met him several years ago at a Heritage Foundation conference, before Cruz was a candidate for U.S. Senate or nationally known. He said Cruz is “a gifted speaker.”
The two had a “candid conversation about his time on the Princeton debate team and how it helped his communication skills,” Cullen wrote. “Ever since that chance meeting, I’ve watched his career. I followed his Senate primary in Texas, and was glad when he won. But ever since then, he’s been a huge disappointment to me. It’s too bad. Senator Cruz is a smart, talented person. He could have been a great leader for our party, if only he’d taken a different approach to his job. Such a waste.
Horn fired back, “The efforts of all Republicans would be best focused on promoting their favorite candidates rather than attacking others. I would think that the impending disaster of a possible Hillary Clinton presidency offers ample, legitimate targets for attack.”
Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said Cullen “may speak for the Washington moderate establishment who are fine with bankrupting the nation as long as they hold on to power, but he does not speak for the majority of New Hampshire Republicans who want D.C. to listen to the people.
“Perhaps Mr. Cullen doesn’t like Ted Cruz because he represents a new generation of conservatives who are disrupting the old order and who know that the window of opportunity to set the nation back toward a course for freedom is quickly closing,” said Tyler.
And how does Bush feel about Cullen’s comments?
“I don’t agree with that,” Bush told us in Hudson on Friday. “Fergus is opening up his home, which is part of the noble tradition of campaigning in New Hampshire. He is not a supporter of mine – I hope he will be, but he’s not.
“I’m not going to turn back and be negative about any of the candidates. Most of them are my friends and I admire all of them,” Bush said.
MORE RAND STOPS. Next week will be just about as busy as this one on the presidential primary front.
When Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul returns to the state on March 20 and 21, we’ve learned that he will host a meet-and-greet and a question-and-answer session at the Beantown Coffee House, 201 Route 111, Hampstead Commons, at 12 noon on March 21.
The event will be hosted by state Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead.
As we’ve reported Paul on Friday, March 20, will be at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in North Conway to speak at the Carroll County Lincoln Day Dinner. Also, Paul will speak at the internet services firm Dyn in Manchester on March 20 and hold a Q-and-A at Epoch Restaurant in Exeter.
HILLARY’S NH TEAM. Hillary Clinton has not surprisingly tapped Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s staff as she prepares to gear up a campaign in New Hampshire. Several media outlets reported Friday that former Shaheen campaign manager Mike Vlacich will be the state director of the Clinton campaign; Harrell Kirstein will be communications director and Kari Thurman, Shaheen’s political director, will be a senior Clinton New Hampshire advisor.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)