FRIDAY, SEPT. 12: HUMPHREY ON BOARD WITH BROWN. Prior to today’s NHGOP “Unity Breakfast,” former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey – who was among Jim Rubens’ strongest backers – is formally endorsing Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate.
Humphrey and his wife, Patty, not only had been strong supporters of Rubens, but they also set up a super PAC to support him.
In a statement, Humphrey said, “The primary is over and it’s imperative to elect Scott Brown. As soon as the votes were in, I sent the maximum contribution to Scott Brown, and I’m with him all the way.
“It’s time to send Jeanne Shaheen back to the real world. She’s Obamacare’s biggest booster, even lying, when she said we could keep our doctors,” Humphrey said. “Let’s bring her home and let her experience first-hand the health care nightmare she helped create.
“Jeanne Shaheen is President Obama’s most loyal supporter, voting with him 99 percent of the time and against jobs, opportunity and the well-being of our families and children. That’s not representing New Hampshire. That’s being a rubber stamp to a President who is an abject failure all across the board.”
(Earlier Granite Reports follow.)
THURSDAY, SEPT. 11: BRIEF NH STOP FOR THE ‘HUCK.’ Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a potential 2016 presidential hopeful, pay a quick visit to New Hampshire on Sept. 26 – his second visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state this year.
Huckabee will speak in Nashua to a private state “Pastors and Pews” event organized by the American Renewal Project, a national group headed by evangelical Christian David Lane that encourages conservative pastors to become more involved in politics.
He spoke to the same group in Manchester in Feburary and he spoke at the Americans for Prosperity “Freedom Summit” in Manchester in April. As he did then, Huckabee is also expected to meet up with several of his key supporters from his 2007 and 2008 run for the GOP presidential nomination.
He finished third in the 2008 GOP presidential primary behind John McCain and Mitt Romney.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 11. SMITH ON BOARD. Two days after losing the U.S. Senate primary to Scott Brown, former Sen. Bob Smith has confirmed to Granite Reports that he plans to attend the state Republican Party’s party’s “Unity Breakfast” tomorrow in Manchester.
“I can confirm that I plan to attend the Unity Breakfast and will have a table there,” Smith wrote in an email. “I do not wish to comment on anything else at this time.”
By attending the breakfast, Smith is issuing a de facto endorsement of U.S. Senate nominee Scott Brown. Smith had held out on whether he would endorse Brown, charging throughout the primary campaign that there was “collusion” between the state and national GOP and the Brown campaign. He had repeatedly said that he would wait until after the primary to decide whether to back Brown (if Brown were to win) and attend the unity event breakfast.
Sources told Granite Reports that Smith’s campaign reached out to the NHGOP today to reserve a table at the event and to say that he plans to attend. A party source told us that Smith will be seated “right up front.” Smith, by the way, did not attend the Unity Breakfast in 2002, after he lost to John E. Sununu in the GOP primary.
The NHGOP issued this statement: “We are pleased that Senator Smith’s campaign has contacted the statecCommittee to reserve a table at our UnityNBreakfast. We look forward to seeing Senator Smith and all of our outstanding candidates tomorrow morning.”
Jim Rubens, who also lost to Brown, reaffirmed today that he plans to attend the breakfast, despite his comments on primary night that the NHGOP tried to “suppress” grassroots activism.
The event is scheduled for tomorrow at 8 a.m. at the Executive Court in Manchester. The featured speakers are potential 2016 presidential hopeful and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Paul will later endorse Brown at an event at UNH in Durham.
(Earlier Granite Reports follow.)
SATURDAY, SEPT. 6: EXPECTATIONS. Democrats, and even some neutral observers, were skeptical of Scott Brown campaign manager Colin Reed’s attempt last Wednesday night to set a low bar possible for Brown’s performance in Tuesday’s primary.
While not blatantly predicting that Brown would receive below 40 percent of the vote in his battle with Bob Smith and Jim Rubens, Reed did compare this race to the 2010 race among Kelly Ayotte (who received 38 percent), Ovide Lamontagne (who received 37 percent), Bill Binnie (who received 14 percent) and Jim Bender (who received 9 percent).
He also compared the race to the 2002 gubernatorial primary in which Craig Benson received 37 percent, to 34 percent for Bruce Keough and 28 percent for Gordon Humphrey.
NHDP chair Raymond Buckley called it a “crock” and said Brown should achieve 60 percent, while his party’s spokesman said 80 is more like it.
Both sides were spinning heavily, of course, so what’s reality for Brown to claim a strong primary victory and say that he met expectations?
While we’re not making formal predictions here, we say 50 percent should be expected, given his name recognition, fundraising prowess, support from the entire GOP establishment here and in Washington, and the fact that Rubens and Smith, while running credible campaigns, have just not receive the media coverage necessary to make inroads beyond their core bases of support.
This is not, as University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala pointed out, 2010 or 2002.
Ayotte, while a recently-resigned Attorney General in 2010, was untested in politics. And, as Scala points out, “The caliber of the competition against Kelly Ayotte was much better than what Brown is facing.”
Lamontagne had the major support of the Tea Party, which was at its height then, the New Hampshire Union Leader, and national conservative figures such as Laura Ingraham. Binnie was well-funded by his own pocketbook and ran a boatload of ads against Ayotte.
Neither Rubens nor Smith has run one ad of their own on television. True, Rubens has the support of the Mayday PAC and its buy is heavy, but it can’t match the pro-Brown deluge.
Scala agrees with us that “If Brown does not hit north of 50 it’s a disappointment for them.”
Scala also points out that Brown should do better than 40 percent because he has run a strong grassroots campaign in addition to a big media blitz. He’s done all he can to overcome the carpetbagger image, which if course will return to haunt him in the general election but should not be a major factor in the primary.
What’s one to expect from Walt Havenstein?
His campaign finally got on track after weak beginning and constant pounding by the Democrats was certainly enjoyed by primary foe Andrew Hemingway.
We’ll see what Hemingway can drum up in terms of Republican Liberty Caucus, Stark 360 and grassroots Tea Party support but Havenstein, despite his campaign’s flaws, has, like Brown, the backing of the GOP establishment here and in Washington. The Republican Governors Association has become involved in the primary and the group’s chairman, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, has been here twice.
This is a race Havenstein should win by a big margin, with at least 55 percent, in order to move into th general election with momentum. Whether he will remains to be seen.
The two congressional primaries are studies in contrast.
In the 1st District, Frank Guinta and Dan Innis have had some tough attacks, certainly, as pointed out below, but not on the level of the Marilinda Garcia-Gary Lambert battle in the 2nd District.
The expectations game says that Frank Guinta should win this one by a substantial margin – collecting in the neighborhood of 55 percent, while Innis receives about 37 percent and Brendan Kelly, in the 8 to 10 percent range.
Innis has run a solid race, but Guinta just has the name recognition and the history and the connections throughout the district, especially vote-rich Mancheter and surrounding towns, for an expectation of a strong victory.
If you see Innis doing surprisingly well in places like Bedford, Goffstown and Hooksett on Tuesday night, you’ll know an upset is in the making.
In the 2nd District, which has received an inordinate amount of attention due to the very nasty nature of the campaign, we believe the race has tightened considerably since Marilinda Garcia’s campaign announced more than a month ago that its internal polls showed her with a 23 percentage point lead.
The Lambert attack ads, we believe, are taking hold and have chipped away from her support. But is Lambert getting that support?
The average voter – even primary voter – does not know where he stands on many issues. All they know is that Lambert is attacking Garcia. Since he took his pledge for term limits and “no budget, no pay” and the like, we’ve not heard much positive out of Lambert.
There are no expectations here for Garcia beyond the fact that she is expected to win.
Jim Lawrence has done a terrific job as a candidate. He is a serious individual who actually was the winner in the Wednesday night television debate and did very well back in July in the debate we participated in on WGIR radio.
But too few know of him. . He has been unable to raise any serious money or do any serious advertising.
Lawrence, though, we believe, is a rising star in the state GOP, should he choose to remain active.
DEBATE WRAP-UP. As for the first three television debates here’s our take:
_Bob Smith won the Senate debate by virtue of this straight talk. No mincing of words – on abortion, on guns, on health care and other issues. Jim Rubens was a close second, bolstered by his line that Scott Brown was trying to “slither” through his answer on Obamacare and he was able to control his urge to talk incessantly on any given issue.
Brown was just a bit too scripted and, of course, dodged the question of whether he is for or against a federal assault weapons ban – twice.
But Brown overall played the front-runner role well and did not seriously hurt himself for the primary election.
_ Jim Lawrence, as noted, won the 2nd District debate. He was above the fray, with clear, strong answers on most issues.
_ Guinta won the 1st District debate, showing a stronger understanding of the key issues than Innis, and he was better able to articulate his position in a clear way.
_ The gubernatorial debate was a draw, with Hemingway getting the edge for enthusiasm and Havenstein a strong overall presentation. There was very little actual “debating” in this debate, so Havenstein came away unscathed.
TIGHTENING CONTINUES. The tightening of a potential U.S. Senate matchup between Scott Brown and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen continued this week with the release of a new poll – this one a Republican survey – by Public Opinion Strategies showing Shaheen with a 3 percentage point lead over Brown, which is within the margin of error.
This comes after a Democratic poll by Public Policy Polling showed her with a 50-44 percent lead and a nonpartisan poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed her ahead only by 2 percentage points.
A never-before-released Public Opinion Strategies poll – conducted for the Independent Leadership for New Hampshire PAC in May _ showed Shaheen leading Brown by 11 percentage points.
Robert Blizzard of POS, who conducted the May poll, wrote in a memo to clients Friday that Brown “has made it through the summer relatively unscathed, as his image today (42% favorable-41% unfavorable) is statistically the same as his image back in May (38%-39%).
He noted that Shaheen was 53 percent favorable-41 percent unfavorable in May but has now dropped to 49 percent favorable and 44 percent unfavorable.
And he noted that President Barack Obama is even more unpopular in New Hampshire than he was in May.
The conclusion: “This race has tightened into a dead heat.”
DSCC ADS. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee realizes the race has tightened, as well.
It has announced a multi-million-dollar ad program, hitting Brown, that will continue through the general election.
“New Hampshire is a good place to grow older. We can depend on each other,” the latest ad’s narrator says in a 30-second spot. “But Scott Brown would turn his back on New Hampshire seniors. While representing Massachusetts, Scott Brown supported cuts to Medicare and Social Security.”
The narrator adds: “And he voted to protect tax breaks for millionaires and big oil.”
View the ad below.
STILL ON BOARD. The big news at the WMUR/Union Leader 2nd District GOP debate on Wednesday night actually came afterwards.
Marilinda Garcia, reeling from repeated attacks by Gary Lambert on immigration and the Affordable Care Act in television and direct mail advertising and in the debate itself, refused to shake Lambert’s hand when the debate concluded.
The state GOP, which through chair Jennifer Horn had been urging the two – especially Lambert – to tone down his attacks, called both camps, we’ve learned. Executive Director Matt Mowers wanted to make sure both candidates still intended to attend the party’s Unity Breakfast next Friday – an event, by the way, featuring Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Both candidates – including Garcia – -assured Mowers that they still intend to be there.
Will she shake his hand?
GRASSLEY ON BOARD. At the Wednesday night debate, Garcia announced that she has been endorsed by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary committee, the panel that oversees the immigration issue.
As an immigration hawk, Grassley was a big catch for Garcia, but what will he do for her?
That remains to be seen in the next few days, but we understand he will send a check, and for another will write a letter of support.
How many votes that will swing is uncertain but it is true that Grassley is not someone who endorses easily outside —or even inside – of his own state.
She also has been endorsed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another immigration hawk (and potential 2016 presidential hopeful) who will be featured at a rally with her at Nashua City Hall on Sunday afternoon.
WAGNER’S OUT. Jake Wagner, former chairman of the New Hampshire College Republicans, caused a stir on Thursday when he announced that he is leaving the GOP and is now voting Democratic.
Wagner focused on issues.
“After many months of reflection, I have come to realize that the Republican Party has failed to see the big picture on issues that matter most to my generation, particularly in regards to the crushing student loan debt that burdens our lives,” he wrote in the Concord Monitor. “The dire consequences of this crisis are felt far more personally than most issues today, and as such, I am compelled to advocate for leaders and policies that will address this problem head-on.”
“The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, is a prime example of how leaders from the Democratic Party are leading the way on this issue. If passed, the bill would allow students and families to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, ultimately saving them thousands of dollars along the way.”
He also praised Gov. Maggie Hassan and Democratic legislators for having “restored funding to New Hampshire’s higher education system, resulting in the first in-state tuition freeze in 25 years.”
The Democrats, of course, loved it. Republicans wondered it was a case of sour grapes.
Wagner , they pointed out, was forced to resign as chairman of the College Republicans because he did not return to Saint Anselm College last fall and did not enroll in college, as he had told the group he would.
That removal also bounced Wagner from the state GOP executive committee.
College Democrats of America President Natasha McKenzie welcomed Wagner aboard.
“This year’s election offers a clear choice for young Americans,” she said. “It’s a choice between Democrats, who are working to make sure that everyone can access a quality, affordable education, and Republicans, who continue to stand in the way of progress. The recent trend of College Republican state leaders switching parties reinforces the fact that Democrats are fighting for our generation’s values. We look forward to working with Jake to elect a congress that fights for them, too.”
WHAT’S THE CONNECTION? What’s the connection between the conservative Stark360 PAC of activist Aaron Day and the Mayday PAC of Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig and former GOP strategist Mark McKinnon?
Two words: Jim Rubens.
While the Stark360 PAC has not formally endorsed Rubens, the other key group that Day heads, the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, has.
Mayday of course has been on the air with television ads backing Rubens and hitting Scott Brown.
A look at the Stark 360 campaign finance report from Wednesday, Sept. 3, shows an interesting contribution.
$103,500 from the Stark360 PAC, which accounts for all but about $6,000 of its receipts.
The PAC spent about $57,000 so far and had about $76,000 on hand.
COMPLAINT FILED. Conservative state Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, on Friday filed an election law complaint with the Attorney General’s Office against the Senate Republican Majority PAC, charging illegal coordination with the campaigns of Sens. Nancy Stiles and David Boutin, both of whom are being challenged in primaries.
The complaint points out that the majority PAC made six separate independent expenditures, totaling about $20,000, on behalf of Boutin and/or Stiles, for direct mailers.
Hoell points out that the campaign literature was “paid for and authorized by” the Senate Republican Majority PAC, yet the mailers contain “the same graphics and logos used by Candidate Boutin and Candidate Stiles for their campaign literature and it has been prepared and mailed by the same vendor, Spectrum Marketing.
“(T)herefore, there unquestionably and obviously has been coordination etween the campaigns of Candidate Boutin and Candidate Stiles and the expenditures by the PAC made ‘in favor of’ them through the use of the same vendor.”
“The effect of the wrongdoing by the PAC and Candidate Boutin and Candidate Stiles is that each has violated the campaign contribution limits of RSA 664:4,” writes Hoell. “The PAC contributed more than the permitted $1,000 to each of Candidate Boutin and Candidate Stiles. Both Candidate Boutin and Candidate Stiles likewise violated RSA 664:4 by receiving such excessive contributions. These violations were egregious and are, by information and belief, ongoing. They need to be halted and sanctioned using the remedies available by statute.”
Hoell tells the Attorney General, “Without you performing your jobs when it is the powerful who are scofflaws, the legitimacy of laws is lost to us all.”
In response Senate President Chuck Morse said in a statement:
“I have not seen the complaint submitted by Representative Hoell. But if he is alleging any impropriety or any coordination by the Senate Republican Majority PAC, then such an accusation is completely false. I would welcome the chance to discuss it with the Attorney General and Secretary of State.”
PLANNED PARENTHOOD BACKS STILES. Stiles not only has the backing of the Senate Republican Majority PAC in her District 24 state Senate primary against Steve Kenda, but he also has the backing of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
PPNNE filed a report this week showing that he spent, $3,400 in an independent expenditure for direct mail in support of Stiles and the same amount in opposition to Kenda.
ANTI-INNIS. Frank Guinta hit Innis with another negative mailer this week. The one decries “Liberal College Professor Dan Innis’ Democrat History File,” and notes that he voted in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, contributed to Democrat Jackie Cilley’s 2012 run for governor and in 2013 “switched parties just before” declaring his run for Congress.
ACU ENDORSEMENTS. The nation’s oldest and largest conservative organization, the American Conservative Union, endorsed Garcia and Guinta in their respective primary races late this week.
MARILINDA GOES NEGATIVE. On Friday, Garcia finally struck back and went negative on Lambert, in a television ad that focuses on his support for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
View the ad below.
MITT ON TV. Mitt Romney is featured in a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad promoting Brown for the U.S. Senate.
View the ad below.
THE FOLEY SITUATION. By mid-day Friday, the political world was waiting to see if Derry Republican state Senate candidate Jim Foley would resign following reports that he stole money from a legal clinic nearly 30 years, falsified military documents and was suspended from the practice of law.
Foley admitted the wrongdoing but said that he has changed since then and was inclined to let the voters decide his fate on Tuesday.
NHGOP Chair Jennifer Horn said: “I understand the concern expressed by so many of our good activists across the state. Party bylaws prohibit officers of the Republican State Committee from intervening in contested primaries. I trust grassroots activists and Republican primary voters will consider this new information as they select our District 19 state senate nominee on Tuesday.”
On Saturday, at the urging of many Republicans, including Senate President Chuck Morse, Foley dropped out of the race, although his name remains on the ballot.
TRACKING EVERYWHERE. The other talk of the state on the Friday before the primary was Scott Brown canoeing the Contoocook River with Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard – and a tracker from American Bridge following behind.
“Wherever Scott Brown goes, so goes American Bridge,” said a spokesman.
(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 email@example.com and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)