Too Shea
It seems like the announcement that former Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter will challenge freshman Republican Congressman Frank Guinta to reclaim her seat in 2012 has generated a collective non-reaction from New Hampshire political observers. Maybe it’s simply because everyone is focused with increasing intensity on the accelerating pace of the presidential primary here, but I’m not so sure. While I have been tough on Shea-Porter over the years, I have also noted on occasion that she is a more tenacious politician than many political observers give her credit for being.
So, I guess I'm not surprised to hear that she is running to regain her seat. Nonetheless, I just don’t see a compelling rationale at this point for her to try again. I don’t yet have a sense of who the alternative Democrat would be, and this is not meant to be an endorsement of Frank Guinta. But the type of progressivism (circa 2006) that propelled Shea-Porter into office won’t likely work for her the next time around either, and I’m not sure she really has some other ideological paradigm (or pragmatic alternative) in mind.
In contrast, Annie Kuster, who also recently announced her intention to run again after a close loss to Congressman Charlie Bass, at least seems to have a somewhat different approach in mind. You may recall that Kuster pivoted away from Shea-Porter-style progressivism, once she had the Democratic nomination wrapped up in 2010, and she hasn’t looked back since. Although I think her frugal Yankee mantra may eventually start to grate on voters, it demonstrates that Kuster understands the need to recalibrate for the next election. Perhaps Shea-Porter eventually will too, but I have no reason to think so.
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Road to the White House, Newt Gingrich Edition
Wednesday afternoon (April 20th), I will be participating in the third edition of WKXL News Radio’s (103.9 FM, 1450 AM) Road to the White House series at 1 p.m. at the Barley House (Main St., directly across from the Statehouse). Our guest will be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. I will once again join Chris Ryan and Ovide Lamontagne for the hour-long taping featuring Speaker Gingrich. The show will be broadcast on WKXL on Thursday at 10 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. I hope you can join us Wednesday afternoon for the live event.
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Trumped Up
I must confess that I have spent more time talking about Donald Trump in the past week than at any other time in memory. You may recall my earlier plea back in October 2010, when I encouraged Trump to run for the Republican presidential nomination just for the sheer entertainment value it would bring to the retail politics experience in New Hampshire. Now it appears that some members of the Republican establishment are just a little unnerved by a new Public Policy Polling survey showing Trump trailing only former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the Granite State.
So, do I think Trump has a chance to be the Republican nominee in 2012? No, I do not. But Trump’s poll numbers illustrate the increasingly important role that celebrity-driven name recognition plays in our electoral politics. These results also underscore the fundamental tension within the Republican Party between feeding the populist beast of Tea Party outrage toward President Obama (i.e., Trump’s extensive birther talk), and working legislatively within the institutional parameters of divided government (i.e., the bipartisan deal to avert a government shutdown). I wouldn’t be the first political analyst to suggest that these two dynamics seem to be working at cross-purposes within the party at the moment.
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Kuster's Next Stand
With all of the Crossover Day and collective bargaining tumult of last week, you may have missed this item announcing that Annie Kuster intends to take on Congressman Charlie Bass in a rematch of their 2010 Second Congressional District contest. There could possibly be a Democratic primary challenge to Kuster, but that seems unlikely given her huge margin of victory over Katrina Swett in the last primary and her very close loss to Bass (3550 votes) in a general election where many other Democratic candidates were wiped out by their Republican opponents.
I have heard several political observers question the timing of Kuster’s announcement, coming right before the you know what was about to hit the proverbial fan at the Statehouse last week. They wondered whether her announcement would get lost in all of the other pressing political coverage. But the move actually gave Kuster an opportunity to get out among the demonstrators, in order to show solidarity as a candidate with what will likely be an important election constituency for her in the future.
Making this move now will of course allow Kuster to get an early jump on organization and fundraising. But it will also provide her with a more formal opportunity to serve as a shadow critic in the press of virtually every legislative move Bass makes over the next 18 months. Bass casts a vote on an issue, and the press will now go to Kuster for her official reaction. It’s an effective way to generate lots of earned media, well before the campaign officially gets underway.
I’ve been asked why Kuster would want to run again, given that the electoral environment has been so difficult for Democrats recently. Keep in mind that midterm voters skew older and more conservative. The next presidential election will be a different story, especially if the economy continues to trend upwards. The Kuster campaign will be looking for a more ideologically diverse electorate to turn out for President Obama’s reelection, one that will likely skew much younger than at the midterm. Add in Bass’ slim margin of victory in a district that is fairly moderate, and the Kuster folks will suggest that she has a very reasonable chance of winning the seat.
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