New Hampshire Views: After a four-month break, campaign begins again
There’s an old saying in American politics that the next campaign begins the day after the last campaign ends. Leave it to former House speaker Bill O’Brien to take that expression nearly literally.
Less than four months after presiding over one of the biggest party collapses in New Hampshire legislative history, the Mont Vernon Republican announced that he will file with the Federal Election Commission to form an exploratory committee – the initial step in his challenge of U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster in the 2nd District. The creation of the committee will make it possible for O’Brien to raise money and gauge what kind of support he might receive – politically and financially – should he follow through in his bid to unseat the first-term Democrat. That’s assuming he were to survive a GOP primary in September 2014, of course.
So far, the only other Republican names to emerge as possible candidates for Kuster’s seat are former state senator Gary Lambert of Nashua and Karen Testerman of Franklin, a former director of Cornerstone Policy Research and unsuccessful 2010 candidate for governor.
And while neither has committed publicly to mounting such a campaign, Lambert certainly sounded like he was thinking about it, given his caustic reaction to O’Brien’s announcement.
“I don’t think Speaker O’Brien can win,” he said flatly. “Bill has a different type of personality than I do. I’m a very inclusive guy. Bill is very exclusive. General election voters are not too kind with that kind of personality.”
To be fair, while O’Brien’s announcement came early in the 2014 election cycle, it’s not unprecedented.
By early May 2009, for example, Kuster already had participated in a Democratic forum for the seat, which became available when incumbent Democrat Paul Hodes chose to launch an unsuccessful bid for Sen. Judd Gregg’s seat. A month later, Kuster made it official by confirming she would run and filing with the FEC to form her full-fledged 2010 campaign committee.
And after losing that 2010 race to Republican Charlie Bass, Kuster never really stopped running.
By the end of March 2011, she announced her intention to make another bid in an email to supporters. This time, she would go on to unseat Bass in a rematch.
As one would expect, O’Brien didn’t waste any time going after Kuster in his pre-filing announcement. In his patented pugnacious style, O’Brien painted her as someone who is incapable of recognizing “the values of New Hampshire generally and specifically voters in the 2nd District.”
“They don’t expect someone to be in Congress supporting a budget . . . that would never reach the point of being balanced . . . That’s one of the things that has really motivated me going forward,” he said.
There’s just one small problem with that particular “motivation” – it’s based on a false premise.
O’Brien was referring to the House vote that rejected the Democratic Senate-backed budget, 261-154. Thirty-five House Democrats broke from their party’s leadership to vote against it – and Kuster was one of them.
Perhaps he should use some of that early exploratory committee money to hire a fact-checker.