Former U.S. senator Bob Smith to run again in 2014
Former two-term U.S. senator Bob Smith has announced he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2014.
In early October, Smith, 72, said he wouldn’t join the race, but he said yesterday he changed his mind after talking with his family over the Thanksgiving holiday.
“I just came to the conclusion that it’s something I really felt I wanted to do. I just feel that different leadership is needed from a political perspective, and I’ve got a lot of gas in the tank,” he said yesterday via phone from his home in Key Largo, Fla. He also has a home in Tuftonboro, where he lives for part of the year.
“I had gotten a lot of encouragement from many, many people across the gamut in politics, in New Hampshire and across the nation,” he said.
Two Republicans – former state senator Jim Rubens and conservative activist Karen Testerman – are already running to face incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in the 2014 general election.
Testerman’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday, but in a statement, Rubens said he expected a crowded field.
“There has never been any doubt in my mind that several candidates will enter a race this important (but) a Republican will win this race and address our nation’s debt crisis and stagnant economy only if our party nominates a candidate who can unite the party and win back young voters, women, and fiscally-conservative independents,” he said.
One of the early tests Smith will face, said one political observer, is whether he can raise enough funding to convince the party power players that he is in the race to win it.
“You would be hard-pressed to find a significant part of the party, even among the activists, who are going to respond with enthusiasm to this announcement,” said Dante Scala, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.
“If he was willing to invest a lot of his own money or was able to raise a lot of money, that would change things, as neither of the other two has shown an ability to raise a lot of money so far. A lot depends on how serious a run he’s going to make,” Scala said.
Announcing he would run for the seat just a few weeks after announcing he wouldn’t “isn’t the first example of Bob Smith’s quirky decision-making process,” said Fergus Cullen, former state Republican Party chairman and an intern for Smith in 1992.
In 2009, political gossips had Smith considering runs for Senate from both New Hampshire and Florida, where he has lived part time for several years.
In 1999, he ran for president under three different banners.
Less than seven months after announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination, Smith withdrew from the primary and became the candidate of the Constitutional Party. One month later, he withdrew from that party and announced he’d run as an independent, before withdrawing altogether in October.
The episode soured many Republicans in the national party and in the state, leading to John E. Sununu’s successful primary challenge against him for the Senate in 2002.
“There are visceral, deep, long-lasting effects in New Hampshire politics from that primary,” Cullen said.
“It’s a political fact that when he quit the Republican Party that gave permission to a lot of the establishment Republicans to give up on him.”
Cullen said it’s too soon to tell, however, how today’s voters will receive Smith.
He said he’d advised his former boss, whom he is not working for in this campaign, to take a listening tour of the state and reacquaint himself with voters.
Smith served in the Senate from 1990 to 2003, and in the House before that for three terms. He ran for his seat in the U.S. House twice before his winning campaign in 1984.
“There’s a tenacity there,” Cullen said.
“Bob Smith was, and I suspect still is, a regular person. He was a Realtor and a baseball coach at Kingswood. His mantra was being a regular guy, Mr. Smith goes to Washington, and it had more than an element of truth to it,” Cullen said.
The state Democratic Party responded yesterday to Smith’s announcement by calling him “out of step with New Hampshire values,” pointing to Smith’s opposition to abortion rights, gun control and marriage equality.
With 11 months until the primary, voters will have plenty of time to decide for themselves, Cullen said.
“It’s certainly not too late, and it’s hard to say that a former two-term U.S. senator is too little,” he said.
“But I think the Republican Party is at a position where the more candidates we have making the case for themselves, the better, knowing the majority are going to struggle.
“There’s a tendency in politics to shoot planes on the runway before they’ve had a chance to actually try to fly. I’m all for people trying.”
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)