Ray Duckler: Rubens, honest about his chances or not, fought right to the end

  • Republican Senate candidate Jim Rubens crisscrossed the state Tuesday, including this stop in Bedford. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Jim Rubens at the Bedford High School voting place Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Published: 9/14/2016 1:20:08 AM

By the end of the day, a long day for a political long shot, Jim Rubens’s face was beat red.

Not from the lopsided loss he suffered against Kelly Ayotte Tuesday in the GOP primary for Ayotte’s U.S. Senate seat. (With half the votes counted, he trailed 79 percent to 17).

Instead, from a sunburn, earned over a day of campaigning by a candidate who worked as hard as he could to register on the political landscape.

“We will know a lot more tonight,” Rubens told me in Hudson, the last of his seven stops around Southern New Hampshire.

The sun had barely set by the time Rubens got turned upside down by a political heavyweight for the second time in two years.

He hung his hat on the craziness of this year’s political climate, the topsy-turvy world that has seen Donald Trump win the GOP nomination for president and Bernie Sanders give Hillary Clinton a run for her money on the Democratic side.

“I do,” Rubens said, when asked if he was serious about beating Ayotte. “People have come up to me the last couple of months and told me they were supporting me. People will be voting for Trump, but they won’t admit it in public. There’s tremendous pressure on the establishment to be behind Ayotte.”

So he shook hands and smiled his wide smile. He rolled up his shirtsleeves and spoke to everyone and anyone, even Ayotte supporters, who declined to have their picture taken with him.

He began with a radio interview in Manchester, then voted with his wife Susan in his hometown of Hanover, then stopped back in Manchester, then gave another radio interview in Concord, then on to Bedford and Milford and Windham and Pelham and Salem and Hudson.

By the time he was through painting Ayotte and Gov. Maggie Hassan and Hillary Clinton as mainstream politicians who will go which ever way the wind blows, who will follow the money handed out by special interest groups, he almost had me believing he could win.


Rubens was in bed with no one, the candidate told me in Bedford. He means what he says and says what he means, he told me in Salem. He’s a true conservative who wears his political views on his sleeve, I heard in Hudson.

Those other three mainstream candidates, all career politicians, all of whom say one thing over here while winking at special interest groups over there, he hinted.

Those are the candidates who represent “failed nation building wars that have spread terrorism,” Rubens told me. “That’s made America less safe, despite clear warning by military experts not do it, that it will lead to a failed state and an ISIS or a terror haven.”

Win or lose, he was a man on a mission.

He called Ayotte and Hassan, who will face off against each other for the Senate seat in November, “twin candidates,” a Democrat who’s a democrat and a Republican who leans too far left.

He threw similar darts toward Clinton in what amounted to an eleventh-hour surge toward what he hoped would be a different outcome this time than in 2014, when he lost to Scott Brown in the GOP primary for the Senate. He lost his bid to become governor in 1998, while serving two terms in the state Senate, from 1994 to ‘98.

Meanwhile, he kept fighting, right to the end. In Hudson, Kelly Garnick, a chemist, thought Rubens had the right formula, and that’s why she voted for him.

“My issue is with campaign finance, and he was the better candidate,” said Garnick, 47. “Until you take money out of politics, people lose their say in elections.”

That’s what Rubens told me, over and over. He said he was outspent 320 to 1. What could he do?

He sipped a bourbon on the rocks at a downtown Manchester pub, after staying at the polls until closing. He said he wasn’t sure if he’d run for public office again. He said he’ll promote constitutional change to make a balanced budget mandatory and take money out of politics.

By then, Rubens’s face remained red, but his tone had changed.

“This was not unexpected,” he said.

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