SATURDAY, NOV. 8: TURNING THE PAGE. We’ll review some of the key numbers from last Tuesday’s very interesting mid-term election below, but as of this weekend, the page will be turned and campaign 2016 will be underway.
Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich was back in the state Friday night for a reception with Strafford County Republicans. Ehrlich is a possible presidential contender, but that very much remains to be seen.
But it will be Rick Perry, the soon-to-be former Governor of Texas, who will truly get things going with his two-day visit to the state Sunday and Monday, for six stops.
He will be followed on Nov. 12 by the one and only Donald Trump, who is again expressing an interest in running for President.
Perry’s first stop will be at the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women’s reception at The Draft pub in Concord, followed by receptions with the Sullivan County GOP in Sunapee and Dartmouth College Republicans in Hanover.
On Monday, Perry will attend the U.S. Marine Corps 239th Birthday Luncheon at Derryfield Country Club in Manchester, a Keene State College Republicans roundtable and a reception with the Cheshire County GOP in Keene.
With the midterms over, Perry will have the first opportunity to give his take on the results nationally and in New Hampshire, and begin the long, slow dance with the activists.
Perry has done a good job beginning to repair the damage he self-inflicted during his failed run in 2011, when – three years ago Sunday — he couldn’t remember the three federal departments he would close during a debate in Michigan.
He has been traveling the country for much of the year talking about the economic strength of Texas. He has been helping candidates in his home state and throughout the nation and generally gauging reaction among Republicans to the prospect of another run for the presidency.
Perry was last in New Hampshire in August, just two days after he was indicted by a grand jury on abuse of power charges for vetoing funding for a public integrity office headed by a woman who had been convicted of drunk driving and who, video clearly showed, was unruly when taken into custody.
Perry has called the charge against him politically-oriented and said he was simply doing his job and upholding the rule of law.
Ironically, Perry now returns to New Hampshire just three days after his first court appearance in the case, on a technical issue, but again drawing national attention.
While Democrats have had a field day criticizing him, the feeling among Republicans is that this episode will not hurt Perry as he gets his campaign off the ground. It could actually help him.
The court case will be a footnote during his visit.
For the first time in this cycle, a likely presidential candidate will be coming to the state without the need to campaign for candidates running in the midterms. The media here is waiting to see just how far Perry goes toward in making it clear he’s a candidate, or intends to be a candidate.
More importantly for Perry will be the question of whether he can begin to dispel the bad memories of his 2011 gaffes and begin to rebuild past relationships in the state and begin to build new ones.
Even though Perry is the first candidate to come to the first-primary state after the midterm, he is still lagging a bit behind those who were here often during the midterms. It’s not Perry’s fault. He had planned to be in the state in early October but had to cancel due to the Ebola crisis in Dallas that had his state in an uproar and had national repercussions. But Perry did contribute more than $60,000 to the NHGOP, candidates and local committees.
Meanwhile, however, several other candidates were here often during the midterm campaign, getting a head start. Number One of course is Hillary Clinton, who has an organization here ready to go. And Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also appeared several times, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren was here two weeks ago on behalf of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
On the Republican side, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was in the state five times since June, and though he failed to pull Walt Havenstein across the finish line, he did help make Havenstein competitive by drawing national attention to the first-time candidate and having the Republican Governors Association spend substantial money on Havenstein’s behalf. Christie has the New Hampshire advantage of having a former staffer as the executive director of the NHGOP.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was also a regular fixture in New Hampshire, a place where he is looking to expand on the existing base of support here that led his father to a second-place finish in the 2012 New Hampshire primary. Paul, you’ll remember, was given the key slot as featured speaker at the NHGOP’s Unity Breakfast back on Sept. 12. Paul during the cycle donated about $50,000 to the NHGOP, various committees and candidates.
Also visiting the state twice during the general election campaign were Florida Sen. Marco, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. And in-state once during the midterm campaign were Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
And then there is Trump, who will be making his first visit since appearing at the Americans for Prosperity Freedom Summit in April.
As Perry looks to begin building an organization here, he will do so with a New Hampshire point man – an experienced one. Michael Dennehy is the senior state adviser to Perry’s policy group, Americans for Economic Freedom, and has plenty of experience as a senior adviser in the state and nationally for two successful John McCain campaigns in New Hampshire.
Paul has another of the state’s top strategists embedded here. Michael Biundo, chief strategist for New England of RANDPAC, and national senior advisor and coalitions director, is the former national campaign manager for Rick Santorum and has a long history of running and having key roles in campaigns from the presidential level on down to the local level.
While Paul is expected back in the state at least once before the end of the year – but probably not until next month –Biundo is already working on developing a ground organization. That has been Biundo’s specialty for a long time now, including his general election stint as deputy national coalitions director for Mitt Romney.
Biundo showed his focus on grassroots organizing and getting out the vote when he spoke this week with Granite Reports about Tuesday’s election.
He said that the candidates, political parties and outside interest groups spent so much money and put so many ads on the air that “it gets to the point where there is saturation” and people actually get overloaded and stop paying attention.
Biundo said that for the Republicans in New Hampshire, “the answer is a long-term sustainable grassroots operation. We’ve got to get better at playing that part of the game.”
The Republicans improved in that area this year, but were still on par with the Democratic Party and its allies from NextGen Climate – which as we reported more than a week ago had at that point knocked on 275,000 doors – as well as organized labor.
Watch for that focus by Biundo to translate into a strong effort to build a top notch ground operation for Paul.
“We’ve been working for some time now on putting together an infrastructure in the state that can be turned into something – if Rand decides to run for President,” Biundo said.
“Advertising will always be important,” he said, “but one cannot over-estimate the importance of a ground game in New Hampshire, not just for the general election, but also for – especially for – a primary.”
THE SENATE RESULTS: THE KEYS. Scott Brown won the state’s two largest counties – Hillsborough and Rockingham – as well as Belknap County on Tuesday night, but fell far short as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen swept through the other seven with ease.
A look at the results show that while Brown’s combined advantage in the three counties was 15,643, Shaheen won the other seven by a combined total of 31,756. The final margin of 51.4 percent to 48.1 percent was a difference of 16,113 votes.
It wasn’t far from most polling, although certainly a few at the end of the campaign did show Brown with a narrow lead. These polls did not account for the massive get-out-the-vote effort by the Democrats, an effort that Republicans confided was on the scale of a presidential election year.
The order in which the returns happened to come in led to an early call of Shaheen as the winner by several networks and the Associated Press, and then to the appearance that Brown had caught up and, for a few brief moments, actually pulled ahead.
But a close look at the results showed Shaheen won this race in the cities, as might be expected, especially the cities in which the results might have been expected to be close – and they actually weren’t.
She won in Manchester 55 to 45 percent; in Rochester, 51 to 49 percent; in Somersworth, 57 to 43 percent; and Nashua, 53 to 47 percent.
Brown did show strength in southern tier towns, as he had to – wining Windham 64 to 36 percent, Seabrook, 62 to 38 percent; Salem, 61 to 39 percent; Merrimack, 55 to 45 percent, and Bedford, 62 to 38 percent, for example.
But these were offset by Shaheen routs in Concord and Portsmouth, each at 67 to 33 percent; Claremont, 61 to 39 percent, and Franklin, 54 to 46 percent.
And in other Republican towns, such as Goffstown (52 to 48 percent or 400 votes) or even his home town of Rye (51 to 49 percent or a mere 50 votes), Brown did not show strongly enough to overcome the huge Shaheen advantages elsewhere.
A comparison of this year’s U.S. House results to those of 2010 illustrates the strength of the Democratic get-out-the vote machine.
In the 2nd Congressional District, Marilinda Garcia, in losing 55 to 45 percent to Rep. Ann Kuster, ended up with 106, 866 votes — only 1,744 fewer votes than the 108, 610 votes Charlie Bass compiled in defeating Kuster in 2010.
Kuster, however, went from 105,060 votes in 2010 to 130,695 votes this year. Total vote jumped from 224, 663 to 238,173, an increase of 13,511. In 2010, more than 11,000 votes went to independent and Libertarian Party candidate.
In the 1st District, Frank Guinta beat Carol Shea-Porter 121,655 to 95,503 in 2010. This week, his vote was almost identical, at 125,504, but Shea-Porter, although she lost, increased her vote to 116,764. It should also be noted here that in 2010, Libertarian Philip Hodson received 8,000 votes.
Still, the results here show that even though Democrats lost in the 1st District, they picked up their ground game and get-out-the-vote effort substantially since the last midterm election on a statewide basis.
But it did not trickle down the ballot, where Republicans made huge gains in the New Hampshire House, picked up a seat in the state Senate and flipped the Executive Council to a 3-2 Republican majority.
Overall, there was a more than 20,000-vote bump in this election as compared to 2010. Then, 461,423 ballots were cast. The official number of total ballots cast was not available Friday from the Secretary of State’s Office.
But 488,432 ballots were cast in the Senate race and 485,244 were cast in the governor’s race.
EIGHTH MOST EXPENSIVE. New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate race was the eighth most expensive in the country this year, according to a report released on Friday by the Brookings Institute.
The study showed that about $50 million was spent by the candidates (about $20 million) and outside interest groups (about $30 million), an incredible total for a state so small in population and area.
Perhaps even more amazing was that Alaska, with about three-quarters of the population of New Hampshire, saw total spending at about $60 million by and on behalf of Sen. Mark Begich and Republican winner Dan Sullivan.
That’s why, according to the study, Alaska and New Hampshire were first and second in spending per voter, at $120 and $100 respectively.
See the report here.
(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political columnist/reporter in New Hampshire. He has been reporting on Granite State politics since 1982. 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.)